Join Charleston Waterkeeper’s fight on the front lines of the planetary environmental crisis, as they strive to protect and restore Charleston’s waterways for their community and future generations. 

The MISSION of Charleston Waterkeeper (CWK) is to protect and restore Charleston’s waterways for their community and for future generations.

Why is it important?

Charleston Waterkeeper strengthens and grows as part of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global network of grassroots leaders protecting everyone’s right to clean water. The Waterkeeper movement was started by a band of blue-collar fishermen on New York’s Hudson River in 1966, because industrial polluters were destroying their way of life. Their tough, grassroots brand of environmental activism sparked the Hudson’s miraculous recovery and inspired others to launch Waterkeeper groups around the world.

Today, Waterkeeper Alliance unites more than 300 Waterkeeper groups that are on the front lines of the planetary environmental crisis, patrolling and protecting more than 2.5 million square miles of rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways on six continents.

From Alaska to the Himalayas, the Great Lakes to Australia, the Waterkeeper movement defends the fundamental human right to drinkable, fishable, and swimmable waters, and combines firsthand knowledge of local waterways with an unwavering commitment to the rights of their communities. Whether they’re on the water tracking down polluters, in courtrooms enforcing environmental laws, advocating in town meetings or teaching in classrooms, Waterkeepers speak for the waters they defend—with the collective strength of Waterkeeper Alliance and the backing of their local communities, like Charleston. 

How do they do it?

Charleston Waterkeeper was founded in 2009 to protect and restore Charleston’s waterways for the community and for future generations. They do this through an effective mix of boots-on-the-water stewardship and data-driven advocacy designed to protect the right to clean water for fishing and swimming. Simply put, they are watchdogs, stewards, and defenders for clean water.  

As watchdogs standing guard against pollution, they test local water quality to arm you with important data about when and where it is safe to swim. They review, and when necessary, enforce state and federal pollution permits to hold polluters accountable. They patrol local waterways for pollution and report illegal activity to local, state, and federal authorities. They empower a team of citizen-scientists to keep watch over the health of these important waterways and to alert CWK to pollution issues.

As stewards, they teach conservation through action to clean and protect the Charleston waterways. They achieve this by organizing teams of volunteers through their Volunteer Corp to haul trash out of creeks and marshes. They partner with local conservation agencies to provide you with opportunities to help recycle oyster shells, build new oyster reefs, and restore habitat. They collect and safely dispose of marine sewage from boaters to keep your waterways clean and healthy. They train citizen-scientists to monitor the health of local waterways and serve as clean water ambassadors to inspire local stewardship. They transplant spartina grass seedlings to support local educational and conservation programs. Lasty, they educate your friends and neighbors in the Charleston area so they can act to protect clean water, too. 

As defenders, they hold polluters accountable to make sure waterways remain fishable and swimmable. CWK will stand on the front lines for clean water pressing local, state, and federal officials to clean up creeks, protect wetlands, stop plastic pollution, protect local communities, and enact clean water policies. They testify before local and state decision makers to give local waterways a voice. They stand up and act when authorities won’t act and use the power of state and federal law to hold polluters accountable for their actions. They will educate and empower local activists to speak up for Charleston’s waterways and the community to help guarantee clean water for all.

How you can #TravelKindly: 
  • Choose Charleston Waterkeeper as your local charity when you book with Kind Traveler.
  • Check the Charleston Waterkeeper Volunteer calendar to find a unique opportunity in conjunction with your visit to the Charleston area 
  • Swing by the CWK office and pick up a DIY cleanup kit and conduct your own independent waterway (including creeks and marshes) cleanup on your time. Your kit will include trash bags, gloves, safety vests, trash grabbers, data record forms, and a clipboard
  • If you’re a Charleston local, become a Creek Watcher or find your local waterkeeper as part of the Waterkeeper Alliance, part of over 350 groups on six continents 

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