Water Equity Clearinghouse

American Rivers


American Rivers, a leading river conservation organization, recognizes the need for urgent and focused policy action to protect our rivers. In the US, 44 percent of assessed waterways are too polluted for fishing and swimming, and climate change threatens to further degrade these resources, possibly leading to widespread water shortages by mid-century. Habitat destruction through development and dam construction continues to imperil wildlife, ecosystems, and our own health.

American Rivers has made significant strides in combatting such problems. In 2016, the organization removed 16 dams, 2.4 million pounds of trash, restored 921 miles of river, trained 6,398 partners, and mobilized 43,470 volunteers to help the organization in reaching its goals. The organization is setting its sights on protecting 5,000 new miles of wild and scenic rivers and one million acres of riverside land, removing 400 hazardous and outdated dams which will restore 10,000 miles of river and 1,000 acres of flood plain, and reducing pollution in 100,000 miles of river to ensure ample supplies of clean water for fish, wildlife, agriculture, and communities.

American Rivers has a wide reach, working in California, the Great Lakes region, the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and Northern Rockies. Combining national-level advocacy with a targeted local presence ensures a lasting impact in all of the lower 48 states.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

American Rivers recognizes that healthy watersheds support healthy communities, and that equity is interconnected to water challenges. Their advocacy work around climate resilience and integrated water management identifies opportunities to bring benefits to the most vulnerable communities. For example, their report Naturally Stronger makes the case for natural water infrastructure as a driver of economic and community development. By focusing on the intersections between water quality, floodplains, and unemployment, we can create economic opportunity for lower-income areas and communities of color that have faced a historical lack of investment.

In Atlanta, American Rivers works with the Partnership for Southern Equity, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, and a number of other partners to develop a green infrastructure strategy built on equity and inclusion. This work looks at equitable distribution of green infrastructure throughout the city, and addresses the potential for gentrification and displacement that comes with environmental improvements. By exposing the ways in which structural racism and inequality have prevented vulnerable communities from participating in decision-making, the project aims to give these communities the tools they need to have a voice in Atlanta’s redevelopment. This work shows that green infrastructure can be implemented equitably, allowing all communities and neighborhoods to thrive.