This is a nonprofit civic association, typically utilizing a holistic and ecological watershed approach, to protect and restore rivers, streams, and larger watersheds, such as a river system or an estuary. These sometimes have other nomenclature, such as watershed alliance and watershed council, which may signify a different structure.

Fast Facts:

The River Network was founded in 1988 and has been key to building the broad watershed and rivers movement. It has provided training to local and state watershed associations and it holds the annual River Rally, typically in conjunction with another major national association. See its Strategic Plan 2018-2022.


1980s: a period of significant and sustained growth begins. The limits of command-and control regulation, pollutant by pollutant, become more evident to civic groups, scientists, and regulators. Watershed associations utilize the regulatory structures of the Clean Water Act of 1972 and other laws, but seek to complement and supplement them with more holistic approaches that leave room for collaborative action and hands-on restoration among local watershed and stream groups, as well as other stakeholders.

1990s and beyond: significant growth, accompanied by ambitious and largely complementary strategies of the River Network (1988), Restore America’s Estuaries (1995), and the EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds (1991)

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