Dec 10

What is a Waterkeeper Affiliate?

By: Rachael Freundlich, GSWA Intern

Have you ever noticed the fish you see alongside the Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) logo? The sturgeon, chosen by the Waterkeeper Alliance, is a symbol of healthy and protected waterways. As a proud affiliate, the GSWA supports and advances the Alliance’s mission of “drinkable, fishable, swimmable water everywhere.”

But what is the Waterkeeper Alliance?

It all began with fishermen… In 1966, a group of New York fishermen, concerned about the impact industrial pollution was having on the Hudson River and their livelihoods, established the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, which was later renamed the Riverkeeper. This blue-collar coalition, many former Marines, took on big-business polluters and won court battles, using winnings from cases to build and launch a Riverkeeper boat.

The success of the Riverkeepers inspired the idea of having Waterkeepers, grassroots organizations led by non-government individuals to monitor waterways and hold polluters accountable. Established in 1999, the organization has grown to a collective of clean water activists made up of over 1.1 million volunteers and supporters. A waterkeeper affiliate (like GSWA!) is a member of a global Waterkeeper network spanning six continents in 46 countries. In total, the Alliance has helped protect over 2.77 million square miles of waterways.  Waterkeepers focus on a variety of issues, from algal blooms to the climate crisis to environmental protection laws; they are on the frontlines to protect the right to clean water access.

A worldwide network means that organizations often have their own unique causes to champion. Marañón Waterkeeper, a Waterkeeper Alliance member based in Lima, Peru, is currently fighting the proposed construction of 20 dams on the Marañón River, a major tributary of the Amazon.  In Dakar, Senegal, Hann Baykeeper has helped to initiate a $68M clean-up and infrastructure update of the polluted Hann Bay to help restore the communities that depend on it. In Georgia, USA, Waterkeepers are urging voters to head to the polls and vote on a superfund site funding law on behalf of their local waterways. While all these organizations may face different issues, they all have the common goal of defending “the fundamental human right to drinkable, fishable, and swimmable waters.”

As an alliance member, GSWA also upholds these values. Community outreach and education, restoration projects, and water quality monitoring are all important components of a Waterkeeper’s/ GSWA’s missions. Even in a pandemic, the work continues to ensure safe water for future generations. Current events, such as the restoration work at the GSWA’s Conservation Management Area (CMA), educational workshops and hikes help to further the Alliance’s goals. This Saturday’s hike at Hedden Park is a great way for community members to connect with the Waterkeeper mission while enjoying some fresh air and nature.

Be a part of it all!

Waterkeepers work with local communities to protect and educate on the importance of clean waterways.  Even individual steps like eliminating single-plastic usage, using eco-friendly cleaning products, and learning about your watershed can support the Waterkeeper mission!