Water Equity Clearinghouse

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper

Great Lakes region

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Niagara River and the people who depend on it for recreation, educational opportunities, and public access. The Niagara River Watershed is a delicate and ecologically diverse region, home to hundreds of plant and animal communities. Covering 225 square miles with 7 major tributaries, the river is the principal drainage of Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, and Erie, which make up almost 20 percent of the world’s available freshwater. The region’s small neighboring islands have faced significant strain from industrial development like mining and construction. This environmental stress on the Niagara River Watershed has taken a toll on its water quality, contributed to shoreline degradation, and decrease in wildlife populations. In addition, combined sewer systems in Buffalo and surrounding areas often mean the watershed is affected by stormwater runoff and sewer overflow.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

Describing itself as “a warrior for the Niagara River,” Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper works to clean up pollution in the river, restore habitats for fish and wildlife, enhance public access through greenways that expand parks, and open space and solicit public outreach. The organization works in several watersheds in the region, including the Buffalo River Watershed (including Tonawanda Creek, Cayuga Creek, and Scajaquada Creek), the Niagara River, and Outer Harbor. Waterkeeper is also eager to involve residents in its efforts, promoting volunteer opportunities to help at shoreline cleanups and urging community members to become Riverwatch captains.

Waterkeeper monitors water quality at 11 locations along the Niagara River and organizes shoreline cleanups at over 50 locations along the river twice a year. In addition, over 100 volunteer Riverwatch captains monitor the mainstem River for problems. Waterkeeper is not alone in its efforts to mitigate the Buffalo Niagara Watersheds, with many partners throughout the region engaged in efforts to protect the watersheds. There are several dozen organizations and schools committed to environmental education, conservation efforts, and river stewardship. For example, Buffalo State College operates a Great Lakes Center and a Maritime Center focused on student education and research. Many local schools and colleges participate in Riverkeeper’s seasonal shoreline cleanups.

These efforts to preserve and restore the Buffalo-Niagara Watershed are driving more funding into the region. The Niagara Power Project Relicensing Agreement is devoting $113 million each year to habitat projects. The Niagara River Greenway plan will dedicate $8 million per year for waterfront parks and recreation, with specific amounts allocated for contaminated sediment remediation and brownfield redevelopment.

Geographic Scale:
Type of Organization:
Nonprofit Entity
Pillar 3
Vulnerable Populations Served: