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Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation


The Organization

The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation (CRF) educates and advocates to protect the Catawba-Wateree River basin's lakes, rivers and streams for everyone who depends on and enjoys them.

The Mission

Founded in 1997, CRF is an independent watchdog supported by nearly 700 members (individuals, families, and businesses). The Catawba-Wateree River begins in the mountains of North Carolina, runs through the Charlotte metropolitan area, and ends southeast of Columbia, SC. Catawba Riverkeeper monitors and protects the 5,000 miles of waterways - including 11 major lakes - in the river basin with the help of volunteers who serve as Water Watchers and Covekeepers. 

CRF's education activities include the CREEK program (a summer youth education and kayaking program), in-school programming, and speaking at community events and civic group meetings. CRF's advocacy work includes commenting on proposed projects that would impact the River, meeting with public officials and industry leaders, and litigation as a last resort to ensure that polluters are held accountable. In addition to education and advocacy work, Catawba Riverkeeper is also on-the-ground organizing trash cleanups, sampling water, sediment and fish, monitoring waterways, and filing pollution reports. Learn more.

The Project

Catawba Riverkeeper will train 40 new volunteer "Water Watchers" who will act as the eyes, ears, and voice of the Catawba River, its lakes, and streams.

The Water Watcher course is a one-day (9 AM - 4 PM) training session that includes instruction in a classroom setting and an outdoor, in-the-field component. The Riverkeeper develops the curriculum and leads the training. The course covers: basic hydrology; issues specific to the Catawba River basin; citizen and Riverkeeper roles; sediment/erosion control and best management practices; and identifying, documenting and reporting pollution. The training session includes lunch and break-out sessions/group activities. The last component of the course is in-the-field. Trainees visit an active construction site to test their understanding of stormwater/erosion controls and best management practices.

With their new knowledge, Water Watchers will actively monitor and investigate potential pollution issues. When the Catawba Riverkeeper office receives reports of water quality/quantity issues, staff will call on Water Watchers who live near the source of the problem to investigate. With a network of trained volunteers, the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation can stop and prevent pollution of the basin's waterways.

The Catawba-Wateree River is essential to the lives of approximately two million people. The River provides drinking water, electricity, recreational opportunities, property tax value, and an overall strong economy to the region. Yet, the Catawba has been listed as one of the most endangered rivers in the United States multiple times in the last ten years (by advocacy group American Rivers). It's also the most stressed river east of the Mississippi. The 5,000 miles of waterways in the basin are plagued by water quality and quantity issues such as: coal ash contamination; sediment and stormwater runoff; nutrient overloading from improper waste storage at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs); sewage overflows; sewage sludge spreading; fish advisories for mercury and PCBs; inter-basin transfers; and poor water management practices. 

In order to protect the 11 dam-made lakes and countless streams in the Catawba-Wateree River basin, Catawba Riverkeeper relies on volunteers to act as the eyes and ears of the River. For more than 15 years, Catawba Riverkeeper has been training volunteers to identify and report pollution throughout the basin. Over time, volunteers burn out and move away so Catawba Riverkeeper is always training new volunteers to fill the needs in different areas of the basin. Right now, the upper part of the basin especially needs new, trained volunteers to investigate reports of pollution and to patrol the lakes, streams, and river segments of the area.

The Location

Upper Catawba River Basin in Hickory, NC. The Water Watcher Training is open to anyone but designed to be convenient for residents of the upper part of the basin.

Key Project Milestones

The Upper Catawba River Basin Water Watcher Training project has five key milestones:

  1. Develop curriculum (already accomplished)
  2. Schedule time and place for the training (already accomplished)
  3. Recruit Water Watcher trainees (on-going)
  4. Conduct the training (upcoming)
  5. Foster relationships with newly trained volunteers and assist them as needed (upcoming)

Rough Budget for This Project