Mackenzie River Basin

The Mackenzie River is one of the world’s few remaining large wild rivers, and one of remarkable continental and global importance. At 1.8 million square kilometres, the Mackenzie River Basin (MRB) drains 20% of Canada’s land mass, gathering waters from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and Northwest Territories. The river provides 11% of the fresh water that flows into the Arctic Ocean, playing a critical role in regulating ocean circulation and Arctic climate systems.

WWF-Canada’s goal is to protect the ecological and cultural integrity of two of the MRB's remarkable freshwater deltas – the Peace-Athabasca and the Slave – which depend on the natural rhythms of high and low river flows to sustain spectacular biodiversity and traditional livelihoods.

To date, WWF-Canada has been engaged in the development of a water management plan for the Lower Athabasca River, a major tributary of the Mackenzie River, through its role in the Phase 2 Framework Committee (P2FC). As part of WWF-Canada's Freshwater Program, we have attempted to protect the environmental flows (also known as instream flow needs) of the Lower Athabasca River. WWF-Canada played a leadership role in the P2FC providing technical guidance in certain areas and standing firm on recommendations pertaining to legal implementation, robustness to climate change, and the incorporation of an Ecosystem Base Flow, essential components of environmental flow protection and any water management plan that aims to meet economic, social, and environmental objectives over the long-term.

WWF Expert

 / ©: WWF-Canada
Rob Powell
Director, Mackenzie River Basin
 / ©: Tessa MACINTOSH / WWF-Canada
Aerial of the Mackenzie River upstream from Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, Canada.
© Tessa MACINTOSH / WWF-Canada
WWF-Canada is also a member of the Peace-Athabasca Delta Ecological Monitoring-Program (PADEMP) whose mandate is to determine, measure, evaluate and communicate the state of the Peace-Athabasca Delta ecosystem including any changes that result from cumulative regional development, and make recommendations to government for changes to regulations, policies and water management practices as needed to restore, protect and safeguard the ecological integrity of the Peace-Athabasca Delta. PADEMP members include regional Aboriginal governments, the governments of Canada, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, and non-governmental organizations.

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The Conservation First Principle

"There should be no new or expanded large-scale industrial development in Canada until a network of protected areas is reserved which adequately represents the natural region(s) affected by that development."  Learn more.