The International Boundary Water Treaty


This related to the boundary waters and to questions arising along the boundary between Canada and the United States. This treaty was made between His Majesty, King Edward VII, and the United States, signed at Washington on January 11, 1909, and the protocol of May 5, 1910.

Highlights of this treaty included:

  • Boundary waters are defined as the waters from main shore to main shore of the lakes and rivers and connecting waterways, or the portions thereof, along which the international boundary between the United States and the Dominion of Canada passes, including all bays, arms, and inlets thereof, but not including tributary waters which in their natural channels would flow into such lakes, rivers, and waterways, or waters flowing from such lakes, rivers, and waterways, or the waters of rivers flowing across the boundary.
  • Except in accordance with a license, no person shall use, obstruct or divert boundary waters, either temporarily or permanently, in a manner that affects, or is likely to affect, in any way the natural level or flow of the boundary waters on the other side of the international boundary.
  • Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of the ordinary use of waters for domestic or sanitary purposes, or the exceptions specified in the regulations.
  • No person shall use or divert boundary waters by removing water from the boundary waters and taking it outside the water basin in which the boundary waters are located.
  • It is further agreed that the waters herein defined as boundary waters and waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other.
  • Agree that it is expedient to limit the diversion of waters from the Niagara River so that the level of Lake Erie and the flow of the stream shall not be appreciably affected.  
  • So long as this treaty shall remain in force, no diversion of the waters of the Niagara River above the Falls from the natural course and stream thereof shall be permitted except for the purposes and to the extent hereinafter provided.  
  • The United States may authorize and permit the diversion within the State of New York of the waters of the said river above the Falls of Niagara, for power purposes, not exceeding in the aggregate a daily diversion at the rate of twenty thousand cubic feet of water per second.  
  • The United Kingdom, by the Dominion of Canada, or the Province of Ontario, may authorize and permit the diversion within the Province of Ontario of the waters of said river above the Falls of Niagara, for power purposes, not exceeding in the aggregate a daily diversion at the rate of thirty-six thousand cubic feet of water per second.  
  • The prohibitions of this article shall not apply to the diversion of water for sanitary or domestic purposes, or for the service of canals for the purposes of navigation.  
  • Agree to establish and maintain an International Joint Commission (IJC) of the United States and Canada composed of six commissioners. This commission shall have jurisdiction over and shall pass upon all cases involving the use or obstruction or diversion of the waters.

  "…The Boundary Water Treaty (BWT) of 1909 first established limits on the amount of water diverted from the Niagara River for hydro-electric power production.  Our two countries entered into a special agreement…the 1950 Niagara Treaty…which replaced certain paragraphs of the BWT and re-defined the diversion and division of water to protect the scenic beauty of the Falls and at the same time provide for increased hydro-electric power production. …."
 -Len Falkiner, Secretary, International Niagara Board of Control (IJC)

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