International Cooperation

EPA Collaboration with Canada

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:


EPA meets with its counterpart agency, Environment Canada, twice a year during the U.S.-Canada Bilateral Environmental meetings.  These meetings, led by the U.S. State Department, alternate locations between Washington, DC and Ottawa and may involve various U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, depending on the environmental issues to be addressed.  

The last bilateral meeting with EPA and Environment Canada took place in December 2013 in Ottawa.

Agreements and Programs

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

Boundary Waters Treaty

The Boundary Waters TreatyExit 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.

Map of U.S.-Canada Border

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA)

Originally 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 2012.  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.netExit

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.

Other U.S.-Canada Agreements and Programs

Numerous other agreements and partnerships exist between the U.S. and its northern neighbor, Canada.  In addition, EPA and other U.S. government and state agencies cooperate with Environment Canada Exit and other Canadian federal and provincial agencies to address issues of common concern along the 5500 mile border.  Some of these programs are managed and implemented through the International Joint Commission and some through EPA Program Offices or Regions:

Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence RiverExit The International Joint Commission (IJC) is working to develop a new regulation for managing flows on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.  The current plan, developed in 1963, is based on water conditions in the last century, does not consider environmental consequences, and is not adaptable to possible future challenges, such as bigger storms, more severe droughts, and increasing effects of climate change.  

Salish Sea: The Salish Sea is the estuarine ecosystem formed by various inland marine waters from southern British Columbia, Canada to northern Washington State, U.S., connected to the Pacific Ocean primarily through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  The drainage basin of these waters, sometimes referred to as the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound Watershed, is home to over 7 million people.  Since 2000, EPA and Environment Canada, with the involvement of various community groups, have cooperated under the Joint Statement of Cooperation on the Georgia Basin and Puget Sound Ecosystem (PDF) to protect and conserve the resources and environment of the area.  For more information, see the following:  

U.S.-Canada Joint Inland Pollution Contingency Plan:  The purpose of the Inland Plan, completed in 1994, is to establish a coordinated and integrated federal response to chemical accidents along the inland border by supporting and assisting regional, provincial, state, and local planners and responders of both countries.  To accomplish this purpose, the Inland Plan furnishes a mechanism for preparedness for and response to a chemical accident that causes or may cause damage to the environment along the inland border and that may constitute a threat to public health.  In addition to setting up a mechanism for assistance during a cross-border event, the Inland Plan also allows for assistance when only one country is affected by a chemical accident, if it is of sufficient magnitude.  

For more information about this plan (hyperlink to fact sheet)

Canada-U.S. Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan:  The Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan provides a coordinated system for planning, preparing and responding to harmful substance incidents in the contiguous waters of the U.S. and Canada.  Implemented by each country’s Coast Guard, the JCP is completed by five Geographic Annexes (Great Lakes, Atlantic, Pacific, Beaufort Sea, and Dixon).  

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

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Key Partners

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

The following links exit the site Exit

Canadian Partners
Environment Canada British Columbia Alberta
Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario
Quebec New Brunswick  
Federal Agency Partners/International Organizations
U.S. Department of State Embassy Ottawa
Commission for Environmental Cooperation Exit International Joint CommissionExit

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Learn More About Canada

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For additional information about EPA's programs with Canada, contact:
Pam Teel - Canada Program Manager
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2650R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-6424