Columbia River Treaty (2015)

Between 2015 and 2017, ACT completed significant work on the implications of climate change for the future of the Columbia River Treaty.

In a changing climate, the Treaty parties must consider and evaluate concerns that had not yet emerged as issues when it was ratified in 1964, creating the largest hydropower project in North America, with additional emphasis on flood protection for the USA. As the Treaty approaches its 60th anniversary, and the first opportunity for modification, its signatories are preparing proposals for new ways forward, and stakeholders on both sides of the border are speaking up.

Our research explores the initial intent of the Treaty and its success to date, its costs to Columbia Basin residents and ecosystems, and new influences the signatories must now consider. Shifts in social norms related to the environment, equity and social justice, new views on the relevance of Indigenous traditional and local knowledges, and the economic and physical effects of a changing climate — are all considered as factors in future Treaty governance. Our work concludes with a summary of the perspectives that currently exist between and within each country with respect to Treaty benefits and outlines the next steps that will take place in the negotiation process.

We hope that a renewed Columbia River Treaty might prove a model for outstanding transboundary water agreements around the world as they strive to meet not only the challenges of the present day but also the needs of future generations.

View Columbia River Treaty publications and resources on our reports page.