The Riverkeeper Model

Question: A group of people in my community want to start a river protection group to protect our local river.  We’ve asked around, and it seems like becoming a Riverkeeper is a good idea. Any advice you can give on the ins and outs on adopting the Riverkeeper model?

Answer: The Riverkeeper model is a great one! It carries with it a lot of name recognition and Riverkeepers have the reputation of getting stuff done! Plus, Waterkeeper Alliance member organizations are some of the most successful water protection organizations in the world.

The Waterkeeper Alliance was founded in 1999 by Robert Kennedy and a group of fishermen who set out to clean up Hudson River in New York.  The Riverkeeper movement took off, and now there are over 190 Waterkeeper organizations worldwide (that include not only Riverkeepers, but also Coastkeepers, BayKeepers, Soundkeepers, etc.).  Riverkeepers generally work at the grassroots level on issues involving local water quality issues that impact the health and well-being of a specific watershed and the communities it supports.  Riverkeepers are also committed to enforcing the law, such as the U.S. Clean Water Act

In order to start a Riverkeeper organization, your group must apply to be a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance.  There is a very thorough application process which is set up to help young organizations build a strong foundation for long-term sustainability and success.  Because the Waterkeeper Alliance wants to make sure each of its affiliate groups makes a serious difference in their watershed, the Alliance also has certain requirements., or "Quality Standards," that each group must uphold.  For instance, every Riverkeeper organization must employ a full-time paid staff person, maintain a vessel, be a sponsored 501(c)(3) organization, etc.  For a list of the Waterkeeper "Quality Standards", download the proposal template off the Waterkeeper website

And before you do anything, make sure there's not already a Riverkeeper organization protection your watershed.  If there is, it's important that you work with that organization as you proceed.  If you decide Riverkeeping is the route for your group, great! Georgia River Network would love to help you out along the way, so don't hesitate to ask us for help! 

Good luck!