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International Programs

U.S.-Canada Environmental Cooperation

city of Cornwall

The United States and Canada have one of the world's oldest and most effective environmental partnerships. The U.S.-Canada border includes four of the five Great Lakes, as well as many rivers and lakes, major airsheds, and migratory routes for wildlife species. In addition, there are many U.S. Native American Tribes and Canadian First Nations residents whose culture spans the border.

The extensive border and the considerable and diverse geography of the ecosystems shared by the two countries requires close cooperation among many U.S. states, Canadian provinces, U.S. Tribes, First Nations, and local and federal governments. The two federal governments have implemented over 40 international agreements for the management and protection of environmental quality and ecosystems in the border area and there are over 100 additional such agreements between U.S. states and Canadian provinces. The two countries also share policies, programs, and goals to prevent and control pollution and to ensure sound policies and practices to protect and restore the many shared ecosystems.

Explore our work on the U.S.-Canada Border:


  • October 2011: The Great Lakes Water Quality Biennial Meeting of the International Joint Commission (IJC) took place October 12-14 in Detroit, Michigan. The theme, "H2O NOW," emphasized the pressing need for action to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Learn more about the 2011 IJC Biennial Meeting Exit EPA disclaimer


Among the many environmental agreements between the United States and Canada, three stand out as most significant:

Boundary Waters Treaty

The Boundary Waters Treaty, Exit EPA disclaimer signed in 1909, established the International Joint Commission (IJC). The Treaty includes the requirement (in Article IV, section 2) that neither country should cause water pollution in its water which will cause injury to health or property in the other country. The IJC assists by implementing the Boundary Waters Treaty, and settling water issues between the two countries. In 1988, the IJC expanded Article IV to include protecting covered watersheds, migratory fisheries, and their habitats. The IJC also assists with other U.S.-Canada agreements, such as the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement.

The map below indicates 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty watersheds in brown.

border map











The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA)

Signed in 1972, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) provides a regional mechanism for cooperation to protect the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem. The GLWQA was last amended in 1987, and last publicly reviewed in 2007. EPA's Great Lakes National Program has primary responsibility for coordinating these efforts. More information about Great Lakes cooperation on the U.S.-Canada border is available on Binational.net. Exit EPA disclaimer

U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement

The U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement was signed in 1991, with the goal of reducing air emissions which cause acid rain.


Numerous other agreements exist between EPA and Environment Canada Exit EPA disclaimer to address issues of common concern, such as the transboundary movement of hazardous and municipal solid wastes, and preparedness and response to environmental emergencies along the 5,500 mile border.  

In addition, both governments are active in the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC), Exit EPA disclaimer the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) , Exit EPA disclaimer the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and numerous global environmental agreements.



U.S. States
Washington Idaho Montana
North Dakota Minnesota Wisconsin
Illinois Indiana Michigan
Ohio Pennsylvania New York
Vermont New Hampshire Maine

Canadian Partners Exit EPA disclaimer
Environment Canada British Columbia Alberta
Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario
Quebec New Brunswick  

Federal Agency Partners/International Organizations Exit EPA disclaimer  
U.S. Department of State—Embassy Ottawa International Joint Commission  
Commission for Environmental Cooperation    




Back to: North America


For additional information about EPA's programs with Canada, contact:

Ella Barnes (Acting Canada Coordinator)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2650R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
Email: barnes.eleonora@epa.gov
(202) 564-6600


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