The Georgia Basin-Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy is a multi-agency, international co-operative effort to address shared air quality management concerns.
What is the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound region?
The Georgia Basin-Puget Sound area is located in the western transboundary coastal region of Canada and the United States (US), and consists of the Georgia Basin in Canada and Puget Sound in the US. Seattle and Vancouver are the largest communities, although the provincial capital of British Columbia (Victoria) and the state capital of Washington (Olympia) are also located in the basin. Click here for detailed map of the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound area
Historically, the Coast Salish peoples have lived in this area for thousands of years.
Andrew Bak of the Tsawwassen First Nation
Today, the population has grown to over seven million people in this region, mainly in the Greater Seattle and Greater Vancouver areas. The population increase has been significant in recent years, growing from about six million in 1991, and is expected to increase as much as fifty percent (to nine million people) by 2020. This growth has important implications for regional sustainability, and environmental, social and economic health due to greater demand for employment, goods and services, land for housing, business and transportation expansion, and related impacts on recreation space and associated environmental resources.
The Georgia Basin-Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy is a multi-agency, international co-operative effort to address shared air quality management concerns. These include impacts to human and environmental health specific to this region. This strategy also aims to prevent future deterioration of air quality, and is particularly important due to the recent significant regional population growth, which is expected to continue for at least the next two decades.
Government agencies in Canada & US with a responsibility for air quality are interested in ensuring that the region's air quality is protected for present and future generations. It is for this reason that various governments, along with First Nations/Tribal agencies and non-governmental organizations, are working to develop the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy.
The Georgia Basin-Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy aims to achieve the following through international and regional co-operation and collaboration:
It supports the "keeping clean areas clean" goal of the Canada-wide Standards implementation process.
The Canada-US “Border Air Quality Strategy” was announced by Canada’s federal Environment Minister and the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator in June 2003. Both governments agreed to increase their cooperation to reduce cross-border pollution.
Three joint projects were announced under this cross border strategy including the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy, the Great Lakes Basin Airshed Management Framework and a study on the feasibility of emissions Trading for NOx (nitrogen oxides) and SO2 (sulphur dioxide).
Air contaminants are known to cause serious health effects, ranging from lung irritation to premature death. Recent science seems to show that there are no safe levels of air pollution, which means that significant impacts can occur in relatively clean airsheds such as the GB-PS.
Although some air contaminants (such as lead) have declined in recent years, others still pose significant risks to human health and the environment.
Health scientists are most concerned about fine particulate matter (PM) that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs (especially from diesel fuel) and ozone. Significant health risks are also posed by other contaminants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxics (such as dioxins and furans).
In addition, these pollutants can cause serious impacts to the environment (such as damage to agricultural crops and impacts to water quality) and can also reduce visibility in the region (which is important for both local residents and tourists).
What is an Airshed?
An "airshed" or "air basin" is a volume of air that is separated from other airsheds by geographical and/or meteorological constraints.
An airshed is affected by emissions from urban, suburban, marine, and agricultural activities, natural sources and their subsequent transformation in ambient air.
Air Quality in the Region
Air quality in the area typically meets both US and Canadian standards; however, important air quality management issues in this international airshed still exist. These are due to findings that significant health effects occur at or below current air quality levels. In addition, projected growth in population, economic activity and motor vehicle use in Vancouver, Seattle and surrounding areas will contribute to increased air pollution if this growth is not well managed.
Some of the main sources of air pollution in this area include: automotive emissions, non-road engine emissions (e.g. construction equipment, locomotives, etc.), wood burning emissions, marine emissions, agricultural operations, and industrial and power plant emissions.
(Source: Environment Canada)
What is being done?
The emphasis of the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy is co-operation and information sharing between Canadian and US agencies regarding potential and actual transboundary air pollution issues.
The sharing of information enables a common understanding of the air pollution issues and concerns of the area and allows those agencies responsible for air quality management to make informed decisions regarding the protection of human and environmental health in the region. Through the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy, government partners are co-operatively:
Partner agencies are also participating in many greenhouse gas reduction activities that are associated with air pollution abatement. Here are just a few examples:
Participating agencies are also engaged in additional activities related to air quality management in the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound area.
Click to see the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound map or
Select link to obtain a list of the participating agencies in the Georgia Basin / Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy.