In the late twentieth century, environmental policy swept the world, and among its primary instruments were processes for evaluating the adverse impacts of proposed actions. In all countries these processes quickly came into conflict with established bureaucracies, none more powerful and resistant to change than those in charge of water resources development. They also conflicted, in many cases, with established ideas of governance, right down to principles of federalism, judicial review, and the separation of powers. So it was in Canada, where in the late l980s three water resources development schemes, each one more enormous, initiated the commonwealth’s approach to environmental impact assessment and challenged the ability of the national government to protect environmental values at all. The litigation was heavy and prolonged. In the end, federal environmental authority gained a significant foothold, but one insufficient to protect the natural and human resources at stake. The litigation also illustrated, as has been the experience in the United States, the critical importance of citizen enforcement actions and judicial review in securing the objectives of environmental law.