Community Member

Cahaba Riverkeeper

Birmingham, Alabama

In Alabama, the Cahaba Riverkeeper was founded in 2009 to defend the ecological integrity of the Cahaba River and its watershed, to ensure clean water and a healthy aquatic environment, and to preserve the recreational and aesthetic values of the river basin. Cahaba Riverkeeper is dedicated to the scientific study of the Cahaba and its tributaries and to keeping the public informed about what the team discovers. The organization monitors the Cahaba watershed to identify violations of clean water legislation. If notification to a violator and appropriate authorities fail to produce action, remedial and legal action is pursued to protect this unique natural resource and important drinking water supply. Cahaba Riverkeeper also monitors the water quality of the river and documents and studies the water and the river’s habitat. This scientific program, which includes bacteriological testing, is a primary focus of the organization.

Valley Creek “Litter Gitter.” Photo Credit: Advisory Council member James Lowery

Unlike other states, Alabama does little to protect its water. To fill that gap, Cahaba Riverkeeper patrols 190 miles of the Cahaba River, takes samples and analyzes them weekly. Since 2014, the group’s small staff, with help from AmeriCorp members and volunteers, have provided its summer Swim Guide showing weekly bacteria levels at 24 much-used river sites, to help people decide whether to swim, fish, or boat in those places. Their ongoing analyses also alert the group to sewage dumping, leaks, or other pollution of the Cahaba, which supplies drinking water to a million greater Birmingham residents. Cahaba Riverkeeper educates students about water quality. It has STEM programs in area schools, offers internships to college students, and works with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s chemistry department, studying microplastics in the river. Its other partners include Waterkeepers Alabama, the national River Network, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the global Waterkeeper Alliance.

Dustin Butler, Cahaba Riverkeeper and staff attorney. Photo courtesy of Cahaba Riverkeeper.

For more information:

NEW: $8.5M project expands public access to Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge + Cahaba Lilies – Bham Now, April 2024

Rare Alabama Snail Proposed for Endangered Species Protections – The Center for Biological Diversity, October 2023

Recent win protects Birmingham’s drinking water for decades – Sothern Environmental Law Center, August 2023

Alabama riverkeepers say “forever chemical” levels in state are some of highest in country, CBS 42, July 2023

Stewart Sinclair

Stewart Sinclair

Stewart L. Sinclair is a writer, editor and educator from Ventura, California. His essays, reportage and narrative nonfiction have appeared in Guernica, The Millions, The Morning News, The New Orleans Review, Creative Nonfiction’s “True Story” series and elsewhere.


Myra Crawford, Founder and Executive Director


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Climate Impacts

Drought, Flooding, Heat, Hurricanes/Tropical Storms

Environmental Justice Concerns

Fighting Development/Destruction of Wildlife/Extinction of Species, Groundwater Contamination, Hazardous/Toxic Sites, Incinerator/Dumping/Landfill, Mining, PFAS/PFOS, Sewage/Sewage Treatment


Community Land Trusts/Land Conservation, Community Organizing and Education, Green Infrastructure, Legal/permit challenges to development, contamination, pollution, etc, Nature-Based Solutions, Policy Reform, Renewable Energy, Risk mapping and/or monitoring e.g. flooding/contaminants etc

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