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Waterkeeper Alliance is the fastest growing global environmental movement, uniting more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy on the issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol more than 1.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines on six continents.

They are the leading voice for the world’s waters with roots dating back to 1966, when a group of commercial and recreational fishermen mobilized to reclaim the Hudson River from polluters. Their tough, hands-on, community-oriented brand of environmental activism led to the miraculous recovery of the Hudson and inspired hundreds of individuals and organizations to launch Waterkeepers across the globe, from the Mississippi to the Amazon, the Tigris to the Ganges, and to fight in their communities for the universal right to swimmable, drinkable and fishable water.

Clean and Safe Energy Campaign:

Almost always located adjacent to public waterways, coal-fired power plants consistently abuse the surrounding environment and communities, fouling the water and sickening the people. Polluter-friendly environmental regulators often ignore the problems, allowing the pollution to continue unchecked for decades. Waterkeeper Alliance is taking action by using an array of strategies at the local, regional, and national levels to hold coal-burning polluters accountable, including testing water, educating communities, creating awareness through our global campaign, training Waterkeepers, and pursuing legal action against polluters. Success criteria includes defeating bad coal bills in Congress, publishing reports to educate the public and shine a light on polluters, filing lawsuits, and advocating for clean water on a local and global scale.

In the United States alone, more than 600 coal plants pollute nearby waters in many ways, including high-heat thermal discharges from cooling water systems, carcinogenic heavy metals from coal-pile runoff, and toxic discharges and leachate from coal combustion waste ponds. Coal mining destroys mountain streams and sickens communities downstream. Residents of nearby communities and others who use the waters around coal-fired power plants, coal mines, and coal export infrastructure are often unaware of the risks they are exposed to because of the lack of government oversight and the unavailability of reliable water-quality data. Furthermore, it is the underserved communities that often carry the heaviest burden of pollution since they do not always have access to information or the resources to fight powerful industry.

Our Clean and Safe Energy Campaign is working to have regulations on toxic discharge into waterways by coal-fired power plants implemented by EPA. In the absence of any effective pollution limit, coal plants have been dumping these lethal toxins in our waterways for over 30 years, making them by far the largest source of toxic water pollution in the United States. In July 2013 Waterkeeper Alliance and a coalition of environmental organizations released a comprehensive report, “Closing the Floodgates: How the Coal Industry Is Poisoning Our Water and How We Can Stop It”. We continue to advocate for regulations on toxic discharge, working to implement EPA guidelines which will protect drinking water supplies and protect public health.

Impact & Progress:

Even as natural gas prices continue to plummet, reducing U.S. demand for coal, the coal companies are increasingly setting their sights on Asian markets that are hungry for “cheap” energy. Waterkeepers around the globe have teamed up to fight and defeat plans for proposed coal export terminals and railways in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast, which would suffocate entire neighborhoods along the way with toxic dust and water pollution.

Waterkeeper’s success is defined by finalizing and implementing the strongest of the proposed standards for power plant water pollution in order to protect our waterways and ensure human safety the regulations. The Clean Water Act mandates that EPA require dischargers to use the best available technology to reduce or eliminate their water pollution. For decades, the coal industry has been allowed to dump millions of pounds of toxic waste into our rivers and streams without limit, and EPA now has the opportunity to create new standards that will protect people and the environment from this dangerous pollution. The best option proposed by EPA is for power plants to install zero liquid discharge technology and convert to safer coal ash handling systems that will eliminate discharges of the most contaminated wastewaters entirely. The proposed regulation includes less stringent standards that would fall short of what the Clean Water Act requires and would not go far enough to clean up this toxic pollution. Only by enacting the toughest standards proposed will EPA fulfill its duty to protect people and the environment.

Successes & Supportors:

Waterkeeper Alliance and partners compelled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue a new rule on mercury pollution, which will reduce mercury emissions by 91% from the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants.

Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper won a billion-dollar lawsuit against the City of Atlanta and set a national precedent on requirements to reduce millions of gallons of raw sewage spills during rain storms. Atlanta also agreed to pay $30 million for the removal of trash from urban streams and for the purchase of local parkland.

The killing of thousands of endangered sea turtles in Baja California was stopped because of Punta Abreojos Coastkeeper’s work to capture Baja’s most notorious sea turtle poacher.

Petitcodiac Riverkeeper won a 40-year battle to open causeway gates on the Petitcodiac River and begin the biggest fish-passage restoration project in Canadian history.

Middle Han Waterkeeper in China is responsible for the permanent closing in 2008 of the Xiangfan Bailing Paper Company, due to serious water-pollution violations.

Washington State health officials approved commercial shellfish harvesting in parts of Puget Sound for the first time since 1969 because of a lawsuit by the Puget Soundkeeper to reduce sewage spills from the City of Bremerton.

Waterkeeper Alliance works closely with more than 200 Waterkeeper Organizations around the globe as well as with partners from Sierra Club, Earth Justice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Clean Water Action. Waterkeeper is supported by a number of  1% for the Planet members, including: AllGood ProvisionsNew Belgium BrewingBetty BeltsPartisan ArtsReUseItWai SUP and Patagonia.

The thing I love about what you do is that you do. You don’t just talk about it.

-Former President Bill Clinton


Waterkeepers are unique and effective because they focus on finding the cause of pollution and illuminating it.

-John Paul DeJoria


Even as a kid in Minnesota taking most everything for granted, I never took the environment for granted – my parents helped me understand and appreciate the beauty of loons, sunsets and banks of mosquitoes. The first time I met Robert F. Kennedy Jr., I sat slack jawed and listened to his fire and brimstone speech. From that point on, I knew that I wanted to support Waterkeeper. It is easy to open my arms, heart and pocketbook to this organization, and it is a great honor to serve as a Trustee.

-Richard Dean Anderson


It is Waterkeeper’s combination of local leaders and action with national expertise and respect that makes the organization unique and powerful.

-Tom Gegax


You Can Help:

  • Support your local Waterkeeper.  You can find your local Waterkeeper on our website.
  • Become an e-advocate by signing up at
  • Be a beach advocate by downloading and using the Swim Guide.   The Waterkeeper Swim Guide is a free smartphone app, website and data source that tells you where your beaches are, which ones are safe for swimming on any given day, and what’s unique or exciting about each beach. It also has a pollution reporting tool.


Email: for more information.

Twitter: @Waterkeeper


Instagram: @waterkeeperalliance

Flickr:  (all photos may be used as long as credited Waterkeeper Alliance.

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