Water Equity Clearinghouse

River Network


River Network empowers and unites people and communities to protect and restore rivers and other waters that sustain all life. We envision a future with clean and ample water for people and nature, where local caretakers are well-equipped, effective and courageous champions for our rivers. We believe that everyone should have access to affordable, clean water and healthy rivers.

As River Network’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Statement of Intent declares, all people have a right to clean and ample water. To achieve this right for all communities, it is imperative for the river and watershed conservation community to build a more equitable, diverse and inclusive movement. River Network is committed to being a catalyst and partner to our peer organizations and to local water conservation groups in this transformation.
River Network provides leadership in three key areas:

  • Strengthening coalitions, organizations, and leaders. River Network ensures that new and existing leaders, organizations and coalitions are strong, effective, sustainable, results-oriented, and equipped to make the greatest impact for the future of our waters.
  • Promoting clean water solutions and innovations. River Network improves understanding of the causes of water quality decline and advances policies and restoration practices that can improve water quality and sustain improvement over time through collaboration and cooperation.
  • Advancing water supply security and sustainability. River Network grows familiarity with the challenges and opportunities associated with securing an adequate supply of water for healthy rivers and communities, crafting solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature, and fostering expanded impact through collaboration.

Since 1988, River Network has accomplished our mission by investing in local efforts and advancing impact at more significant scales (system, state, regional, and national). We focus on bringing the best new ideas and innovations from academia, national NGOs, government and industry to our community and elevating success within our ranks. We provide one-on-one mentoring, consulting, virtual trainings, and online publications, and we organize and host the annual River Rally to strengthen local efforts.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

River Network’s new strategic plan (to be completed by October 2017) reflects our commitment to advancing water equity by integrating goals of equity, inclusion and diversity across all our program strategies and areas of focus. Our efforts to date have included the following:

  1. River Network, in partnership with Groundwork USA, coordinates the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN).  This peer-to-peer network of people and organizations was established in 2011 as a platform for urban practitioners to share practical on-the-ground experiences in order to improve urban waterways and revitalize the neighborhoods around them. This work engages approximately 100 organizations serving constituencies in environmental justice communities. We have awarded grants to support work in environmental justice communities, disseminated tools and hosted numerous webinars and peer discussions on topics related to water equity. These include: developing workforce development opportunities in green infrastructure, transforming brownfields for community benefits, engaging minority audiences through education, and turning vacant lots and brownfields to greenways along rivers.   
  2. River Network and Groundwork USA have launched the Urban Flooding and Equity for Vulnerable Communities Collaborative to provide direct support to organizations working on issues of urban flooding in their communities. We are currently supporting organizations in Atlanta, Denver, Rhode Island, Albuquerque and Portland (OR), providing them in-depth support to engage community members in developing equitable solutions, training on working effectively with local decision-makers, tools to define equity measures for their work, small grants, and more.
  3. As part of our emerging focus on drinking water, in the coming 2-3 years, River Network is increasing support to organizations working to secure clean, safe, and affordable drinking water for their communities. This work will include developing training materials, including a widely accessible “drinking water toolkit,” and disseminating them through training opportunities to help groups navigate related policies and decision-making processes and mobilizing their community members on drinking water issues. We anticipate the toolkit will include a range of topics such as policy, monitoring, infrastructure funding and community engagement. In 2018 we will launch a collaborative similar to #2 above, to focus on drinking water.
  4. Through our work to strengthen coalitions, organizations, and leaders, we train organizations in the area of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) through webinars (see here and here); workshops and keynote addresses at River Rally, our annual conference; and direct consulting support to organizations working to transform their programs to be more equitable and inclusive.
  5. Since 2015, we have dedicated at least one issue per year of our e-magazine, River Voices, to topics directly related to building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive movement for river and watershed conservation. In doing so, we have provided a platform for groups and individuals to share their stories, provide guidance and inspire others to take more inclusive and equitable approaches in their programs. Examples include the October 2015 issue on Diversity and Inclusiveness, the July 2016 issue on Climate Change and Climate Resilience, and the April 2017 issue on Water Equity and Civic Engagement.
  6. Since 2008, River Network has operated a National Rain Barrel Program to help people reduce their water use and utility bills and increase their awareness about where their water comes from. The program is deployed in cities and rural areas to engage diverse communities and help them connect to the importance of water in their lives.  
  7. In Colorado and the West, River Network is working with conservation practitioners and water leaders to find and deliver equitable water solutions that support farmers and ranchers as well as healthy rivers. Agriculture is often demonized as the basis for rivers running dry. We are helping elevate partnerships that are making a difference and flexible arrangements where farmers and ranchers are compensated for practices that support healthy rivers. We are also introducing considerations of other stakeholders to this community, including farm workers.