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An agreement was signed on Thursday by BC and Northwest Territories governments, who are committing to manage water in the Mackenzie River Basin together.

The Mackenzie River Basin covers 1.8 million km2, making it the largest in Canada.

This is the first bilateral water management agreement BC has signed under the broader, encompassing Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement.

That aforementioned agreement is a water management partnership between the federal government and Saskatchewan, Alberta, BC, Yukon and Northwest Territories.

Through the British Columbia and Northwest Territories Bilateral Water Management Agreement, both governments are committing to protecting the ecosystems within the basin, as well as the interests of all citizens, including First Nations.

“The Mackenzie River Basin is part of our rich, natural heritage that needs to be managed co-operatively,” said Environmental Minister Mary Polak, who signed the agreement. “We are taking this next step with our neighbours to the north to ensure our shared waters are protected for the health of our environment and citizens, for today and for our future generations.”

This agreement focuses on the Liard and Petitot watersheds, and will “recognize and respect each jurisdiction’s laws, regulations, plans, policies and economic opportunities,” according to the BC government.

“The people of the Northwest Territories maintain a strong connection to the land and healthy aquatic systems are essential for food security, travel and economic growth, and mental, physical, cultural and spiritual well-being,” stated J. Michael Miltenberger, the Northwest Territories Environment and Natural Resources Minister.

“This agreement – the second our government has finalized this year – will allow our two jurisdictions to work co-operatively to manage the shared waters of the Liard and Petitot basins and ensure the health of both our people and the environment for generations to come.”

The first agreement this year that Miltenberger references is a bilateral water management agreement the Northwest Territories signed with Alberta in March 2015.

A 2002 Bilateral Water Management Agreement with Yukon is being revised.

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