Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Sarah Halvorson

Commitee Members

David Shively, Brian Chaffin


water quality, water governance, river basin, canada, transboundary, Kootenai River


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Nature and Society Relations


This thesis addresses current water quality management challenges in the transboundary Kootenai/y River Basin, and how these challenges are shaped by historical, economic, political, and social factors. The water quality of this basin, both in the United State and Canada, has been severely affected by coal mining that has occurred in British Columbia over the last hundred years and continues to be threatened by several proposed mining expansion projects. The goals of this research are to uncover the forces shaping water management and to determine the potential for interested and affected parties to participate in crafting water quality protection measures. Through the lens of political ecology, a critical approach is used to analyze the specific dynamics of mining-related water quality issues and to understand the tensions that exist between the underlying structural forces and the power relations concerning water governance. This research draws on data from interviews of interested and affected parties in the basin, observations of water quality and mining-related meetings, and analysis of government and historical documents. A historical perspective provides the foundation for how governance has evolved to the current narrow actions to contain the water quality problem. The study sheds light on the way in which specific actors’ choices are constrained by political processes that exist within a river basin-specific context. Finally, recommendations are given regarding the ways in which measures to protect the water quality can better address the needs and concerns of interested and affected parties in the basin.



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