Changing Places, Changing Lives, Creating Leaders

| Richmond, CA

Groundwork Richmond, established in 2010, is one of 20 Trusts of the Groundwork USA network. The organization has established programs that benefit both the environment and the community in Richmond California, forming strong partnerships with local organizations and agencies to … Continued

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Groundwork Richmond: Greening the Urban Landscape

Groundwork Richmond, established in 2010, is one of 20 Trusts within the Groundwork USA network. The organization plays an integral role in developing the greenway, greening the urban landscape, engaging the community, and educating youth. Environmental justice is also central to Groundwork Richmond’s programs, which benefit both the environment and the local community. Groundwork Richmond has formed strong partnerships with local organizations and agencies to provide meaningful job training and workforce development to build the Richmond Greenway and enhance urban forestry.

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Parks with Purpose: Community Driven Green Infrastructure

Through their Parks with Purpose program, The Conservation Fund and partner organizations are designing and implementing green infrastructure in underserved urban communities while engaging and training residents to make way for lasting change.

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Partners in Northwest Indiana are Leading People to the Water

Together, partners in the Northwest Indiana area are leading people to the water. The LaPorte Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) – established in 1937 by the Indiana Soil Conservation Act – plays a vital role in both the Trail Creek Watershed Partnership and the Northwest Indiana Federal Partnership. They offer a variety of programs that educate and empower the community to take an active role in protecting their environment. In addition, the LaPorte SWCD is involved in watershed planning, advocating and implementing best management practices within the Trail Creek Watershed.

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Science to Action: Urban Waters Education

| Los Angeles, CA

In 2013, UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability (IoES) partnered with LA Waterkeeper (LAW)  on an EPA Urban Waters Small Grant to develop a teaching curriculum for high school students at Jefferson High School in south Los Angeles in order … Continued

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Partnerships, Education, and Action in Northwest Indiana

| LaPorte, IN

The LaPorte Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) – established in 1937 by the Indiana Soil Conservation Act – helps residents of Indiana to conserve land, water, forests, wildlife and natural resources within the state of Indiana. Initiatives of the … Continued

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Green Infrastructure to Decrease Stormwater Flooding, Enhance Water Quality and Promote Equity

To further combat the impacts of CSOs, stormwater runoff, and pollution in urban watersheds, local organizations and businesses formed the RI Green Infrastructure Coalition (GIC) in 2014. The Coalition is made up of nearly 40 local businesses, non-profits, and government offices in the Providence-Metro and Newport-Aquidneck Island areas. They are forming partnerships and using green infrastructure to decrease stormwater flooding, address climate change impacts, enhance water quality, and promote equity in urban watersheds.

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Plaster Creek Stewards

| Grand Rapids, MI

The Plaster Creek Stewards initiative began at Calvin College in 2009 to provide experiential education and a working lab for students. Through several Michigan Department of Environmental Quality grants, EPA Urban Waters grants, support from the Urban Waters community, and … Continued

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Advancing One Water Through Arts and Culture: A Blueprint for Action

This report compiles informative case studies, focusing on programs that have successfully incorporated artists, art, and culture into their place-based, transformative approaches. These programs aimed to address affordability issues, make connections between people and their environment, promote holistic water resource management, increase community participation, mitigate and remediate damages, integrate community needs into infrastructure, and support community activism.

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Education and Action in the Merrimack River Watershed

| Lawrence, MA

The Merrimack River Watershed Council (MRWC), a non-profit organization formed in 1976, works to restore and protect the Merrimack River Watershed through education, recreation, advocacy, and science. In 2012, the MRWC partnered with the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments to … Continued

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Atlanta Watershed Learning Network: Educating and Empowering Communities to Advocate for Equity and Environmental Protections

Environmental Community Action, Inc (ECO-Action) – a grassroots organization that works with people to fight for their rights to clean air, land, and water – acts as a support system to the communities they serve by providing resources and creating partnerships with other organizations. They have developed many programs designed for educating and empowering the Proctor and Intrenchment Creek watershed communities to advocate for equity and environmental protections. Among their initiatives, ECO-Action is heavily involved in community education and advocacy towards the implementation of green infrastructure projects that address stormwater flooding issues and provide more livable neighborhoods for underserved communities.

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Proctor Creek Watershed: Green Infrastructure That Benefits Community & Environment

In 2013, the Proctor Creek Watershed was designated by the EPA as an Urban Waters Federal Partnership location, with goals to engage the community while improving water quality, providing green spaces, and supporting green infrastructure. The Conservation Fund was awarded an EPA Urban Waters Small Grant in 2016 to work with residents and multiple organizations of the Proctor Creek Watershed to create green infrastructure solutions that benefit the community and the environment.

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Lower Hudson Urban Waters Collaborative: Strengthening Stewardship through Partnerships and Community Science

To further understand the severity and sources of bacterial pollution in the four urban subwatersheds in the Hudson River Estuary, Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak (CURB), supported by an EPA Urban Waters Small Grant, created the Lower Hudson Urban Waters Collaborative. Partnering with Riverkeeper, the Hudson River Watershed Alliance, and the Bronx River Alliance, the Urban Waters Collaborative created a strong partnership in the Lower Hudson Valley in which the organizations share experiences and combine data resources with the goal of strengthening stewardship and community science capacity.

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Youth Leadership to Solve the Pollution Problem

| Denver, CO

Over the last several years, a diverse group of stakeholders has undertaken a watershed planning effort for the urbanized section of Bear Creek in the Denver metropolitan area. Groundwork Denver is integrating two recommendations integral to the watershed plan: water … Continued

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Creative Engagement: Involving Youth in Community Solutions

Three projects from different organizations in the eastern United States are using creative methods to educate students about environmental issues in their communities and to empower urban youth to make a difference.  While the issues that the communities face are varied, each organization is engaging youth to raise awareness and to create solutions.

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Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martin Peña: Restoring an Ecosystem and Building Resilient Communities in Puerto Rico

El Caño Martin Peña (CMP) is a 3.75-mile-long tidal channel located within the San Juan Bay National Estuary in Puerto Rico, the only tropical estuary within the National Estuary Program. The degraded channel has threatened not only communities’ health, but the ecosystem as well. ENLACE engages in public education activities to promote an understanding of the impacts of environmental degradation, fostering critical consciousness and democratic action to support restoration efforts. The restoration of the estuarine tidal channel will allow for mangroves to flourish and increase biodiversity, improving resilience during storms and providing opportunities for tourism.

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Raising Awareness: Microplastic Pollution in the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary

Advocating for change starts first with quantifying and documenting the extent of plastics pollution. The NY/NJ Baykeeper study illuminates the high prevalence of plastics pollution within the Harbor Estuary and highlights the importance of both decreasing plastics consumption and increasing disposal awareness. 

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EPA’s Local Foods, Local Resources Toolkit

The EPA is offering the Local Foods, Local Places Toolkit to help communities interested in using local foods to support downtown and neighborhood revitalization. Developed by EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities, it provides step-by-step instructions for planning and hosting the … Continued

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Crowdsourcing Water Quality Data through Mobile Apps

Monitoring of our waterways is critical to identify issues of concern, to evaluate restoration projects’ success, and to gauge changes over time. New technologies are continually shaping the way we collect data, providing water quality monitors with new capabilities and … Continued

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Tackling Runoff through Community Education and Technology

In urban settings, stormwater runoff is one of the leading water quality concerns due to limited surface area where water can infiltrate into the soil. Impervious surfaces result in water flowing quickly across pavement and down gutters and sewers rather than dispersing out evenly over the landscape. The farther and faster the water travels, the more contaminants and sediment it picks up along the way.

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An Equitable Water Future: a National Briefing Paper

This U.S. Water Alliance publication summarizes the overarching and regional challenges that demonstrate the need for more equitable approaches, then outlines the “three pillars of equity” based on USWA’s original research, as well as data from PolicyLink. The report goes … Continued

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Lummi Indian Business Council

| Bellingham, WA

LUMMI NATION YOUTH: WATER QUALITY, WATERSHEDS AND SALMON The Lummi Nation Youth: Water Quality, Watersheds and Salmon project is a project that seeks to engage fifth grade students at the Lummi Nation School in active stewardship of the environment, focusing … Continued

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Urban Waters Civic Action Project

| Los Angeles, CA

Funded by an EPA Urban Waters Small Grant, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) joined with UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability (IoES), and the LA Waterkeeper (LAW) to form a unique partnership between scientists, public policy professionals, and educators.  Together, they created the Urban Waters Civic Action … Continued

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Space to Grow: Transforming Schoolyards into Vibrant Places

| Chicago, IL

Space to Grow transforms Chicago schoolyards into beautiful and functional spaces to play, learn, garden, and be outside. Schoolyard transformations prioritize physical activity, outdoor learning, and community engagement. The green schoolyards incorporate landscape features, such as rain gardens, native plantings, … Continued

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Reducing Plastic Pollution in an Urban Watershed

| Keyport, NJ

The project will identify, reduce, and prevent plastic from reaching the lower Passaic River watershed and Newark Bay complex. This goal will be achieved through surface water sample collection for microplastics, followed by public outreach and education. Student interns from … Continued

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Heron Pond Regional Open Space Master Plan

| Denver, CO

Denver Parks and Recreation and the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative are leading an effort with the surrounding communities to re-envision approximately 80 acres of city property and existing open space around Heron Pond to serve as a regional and local … Continued

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Innovative Environmental Education for Watershed Stewardship

| Kansas City, MO

Since its founding in 1996, Blue River Watershed Association (BRWA) has been a leader in designing innovative experience-based environmental education activities to improve the quality of the Blue River watershed and nearby streams. BRWA runs four innovative programs, T.R.U.E. Blue, Macro … Continued

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Leaders in Community Engagement

| Atlanta, GA

With its roots in community struggle for environmental justice, the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA has grown into a dynamic watershed education, advocacy and stewardship organization. WAWA arose from community efforts to halt discriminatory waste water treatment practices in West … Continued

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Creative & Inclusive Community Engagement

| Seattle, WA

The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group (DRCC/TAG) is a coalition of ten groups working to promote the health of the Duwamish RIver, a 5.5 mile long Superfund site that flows through Seattle’s Duwamish Valley. DRCC/TAG works to implement effective, meaningful, … Continued

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Community Engagement Improves Water Quality on the Wabash

| Lafayette, IN

The Wabash River Enhancement Corporation (WREC) partners with residents, commercial and industrial entities, local and regional governments, local civic and environmental organizations, and others to protect and improve water quality within the Wabash River watershed. Through initiatives such as the Paint … Continued

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Restoring the Wabash River in the Heart of Indiana

The Wabash River, which is Indiana’s state river, has a rich economic and cultural history. As a tributary of the Ohio River, it is part of the upper reaches of the 1,245,000-square-mile Mississippi River Basin, and so was a vital navigation and trade route for French traders traveling between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico.

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The Emerald Necklace: Connecting the Mountains to the Sea

The San Gabriel River drains a 713-mile watershed in the San Gabriel Mountains, flowing as far south as Long Beach, where it enters Alamitos Bay as a tidal river. It shares its watershed with two other major rivers: the Los Angeles and the Santa Ana.

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Building the Future by Uncovering the Past

Most people are familiar with archeology as a field that explores ancient civilizations by uncovering artifacts. However, archeology has applications in modern urban locations as well. Cities change quickly, and in the process, the lives and stories of residents—and even whole neighborhoods and rivers—can be buried or substantially altered. Archeology can uncover the stories that never made it to the history books, and can also help communities to discover and tell their own stories and histories.

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Connecting a River to the Fabric of a City’s Culture and History

The headwaters of the San Antonio River originate in Bexar County, from which it begins a 240-mile journey through six counties toward San Antonio Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. From Spain’s colonization efforts to the emergence of San Antonio as the second most populous city in Texas, the area’s rich history and culture have been shaped by the San Antonio River.

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Groundwork Elizabeth: Reconnecting the City and the River

| Elizabeth, NJ

The long-term vision for the Elizabeth River Trail project in Elizabeth, New Jersey is to connect people with the natural environment in the most densely populated region of the country. Through signage and service learning events, residents and visitors will learn about ecological restoration plans for the river and become environmental stewards of this valuable resource. Ultimately, the trail will tie into the regional network of greenways already established and under construction.

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Groundwork Elizabeth Green Team students use a recently installed lookout point to view the Elizabeth River. Photo: Groundwork Elizabeth.

Youth and Community Engagement Changes Places and Lives

| Washington, DC

Groundwork Anacostia, a “trust” under the umbrella of Groundwork USA, is based in the District of Columbia’s Ward 7, which has the longest portion of riverbank—including four out of the five tributaries that feed the Anacostia River. The neighborhood has a large amount of green space in the form of National Park Service (NPS) historical preserves, Civil War sites, and city parkland. Groundwork Anacostia’s main focus has been to improve this parkland, as well as local derelict lots and vacant land, in order to improve quality of life and access for neighborhood residents, while also offering innovative education and job training programs for area youth.

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Groundwork Anacostia Green Team youth paddle the Potomac River

Reclaiming Urban Waterways—Daylighting the Saw Mill River

Few environmental projects focus community attention as dramatically as those that seek to create (or retrieve) parks and trails along urban waterways. The Groundwork network has achieved significant success on such projects, including the Saw Mill River Daylighting Park in Yonkers, NY; the Spicket River Greenway in Lawrence, MA; the Elizabeth River Greenway in Elizabeth, NJ; and the Mill Creek Greenway in Cincinnati.

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Stormwater Messaging Posters

These posters were part of a program funded by EPA’s Urban Waters Small Grants. The Northern Middlesex Council of Governments and Merrimack River Watershed Council created these posters in the language of area residents–working with the community to idenify the … Continued

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Citizen Science QAPP Guidance by EPA Region 2

A quality assurance project plan (QAPP) states the objectives and procedures to be followed for a project that uses or collects environmental information. This WORD document was provided by EPA Region 2 for organizations to provide guidance in developing their … Continued

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Engaging Elected Officials in Your Work

Recorded webinar offering guidance, tips and successful examples of engaging elected officials in urban waters work. Presenters include: Sven-Erik Kaiser, U.S. EPA Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations; Keely Monroe, Alliance for Justice; and Rick Magder, Groundwork Hudson Valley.  

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River Voices (2015) Diversity & Inclusiveness

This issue of River Network’s quarterly newsletter describes how various river and water-focused organizations around the country are working to diversify their organizations and become more inclusive in their work. Download this resource

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Multifaceted Methods Help Restore the Mystic River

| Arlington, MA

Momentum for improving the Mystic River got started in 1969 when various agencies and local planning departments published a report outlining plans to tackle the high levels of pollution and improve recreational opportunities on the Mystic River Reservation, a publicly-owned nature preserve. By the early 1980’s, greenways with bike and pedestrian trails started to be installed.

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Citizen-led Monitoring of Urban Wetland Restoration in New Orleans

The Citizen-led Monitoring of Urban Wetland Restoration in New Orleans creates active wetland advocates by placing technology into community members’ hands, especially in those of low-income Lake Pontchartrain residents. This effort was supported in part by a $50,000 Urban Waters Small Grant funded by EPA.

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Making Space for Monarchs and Students

In 2014 The University of Arizona (UA) received support from the U.S EPA in the form of funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

This funding was used to supplement the restoration efforts conducted through Project WET; a project of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension – Maricopa County. With this NFWF funding, UA was able to weave Monarch Butterfly habitat creation into their existing program.

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Vacant Lots to Greenways in Kansas City

Heartland Conservation Alliance (HCA) was created as an alliance of diverse partners who share a vision and work collectively to conserve natural areas, connect people to nature and convene partners. Their mission is creating multiple benefits for people by focusing on projects that save Kansas City’s valuable natural resources and give them back to benefit the community—“ecological democracy.”

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Action on the Middle Blue River

In 2014 the Blue River Watershed Association (BRWA) received $59,940 from EPA’s Urban Waters Program to work with its partner agencies to engage eight teams of urban middle school students, four teams this spring and four teams in the fall. BRWA will engage the youth in water quality monitoring studies, data collection, and community presentations and projects.

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Visioning for Green Infrastructure

While ECO-Action serves as the lead for the project there are many partners working together to address stormwater and combined sewer overflow impact on Proctor Creek. Green infrastructure concepts and principals are being infused into the Clark Atlanta University dual engineering courses. This marks a milestone in the efforts led by ECO-Action to increase awareness among faculty, staff, and students about the importance of green infrastructure and the type of positive impacts these practices and principals can have at a local level.

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Engaging Community and Tracking Habitat Health

Funded by an EPA Urban Waters Small Grant, the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association and the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council teamed up with the Rhode Island Dept. of Environmental Mgmt. and other partners to develop a fish community monitoring program for Rhode Island’s wadeable urban rivers and streams. Program goals are to assess changes to habitat health, target locations for water quality restoration initiatives, engage community members in citizen science initiatives, and provide water quality information to the public.

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The Old Smoky Hill River Channel

In 2012 the Pollution Prevention Institute at Kansas State University was awarded a $60,000 urban waters small grant from EPA, part of which was used to conduct water quality monitoring in the river channel in addition to engaging the public in the removal of invasive species along the river bank. Intended outcomes of their project include establishing an understanding of the pollutants present in the river and helping create a more informed public which understands the importance and process of maintaining the integrity of the river channel.

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Helping to Save the Rain

Once known as the most polluted lake in the nation, Onondaga Lake has received significant attention over the last several decades. The lake’s upper water’s have undergone tremendous improvement because of efforts to remediate industrial and municipal pollution. Improvements to the county’s wastewater treatment plant as well as the reduction of combined sewer overflows (CSO) through the use of both grey and green infrastructure have led to the resurgence of the lake’s fishery.

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A River for All – Fighting for Environmental Justice and Health Equity in Seattle

In 2013 and after 12 years in the making, EPA released its Proposed Cleanup Plan for the Superfund site, starting the clock on a 105-day public review and comment period. This highly technical document recommended a mix of technologies for addressing the river’s toxic sediments and meeting the four objectives of the cleanup, which include protecting the health of people who consume seafood.

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Stormwater and Sewer Overflows “Sexy?”–Effective Messaging in Galveston Bay

Water quality is not the most zany or attractive topic in which to engage citizens. They know it’s important, but how, really, can they affect change? The Galveston Bay Foundation has launched a successful suite of programs —matching playful and provacative messaging with down-to-earth behaviors—that will empower local citizens to improve water quality in the bay.

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A Model to Engage Youth

Each model site is a place where neighborhood surface waters (streams and lakes), receives water runoff from storms (stormwater), and becomes an outdoor learning site for investigations and actions by students from nearby schools. Thus Keep It Clean (KIC) – Neighborhood Environmental Trio (NET) means a program focusing on clean water (KIC), each with a school, park (preferably with a recreation center), and an accessible body of water or waterway within a few minutes walk of each other (NET).

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Restoring a Watershed One Community at a Time: Groundwork NOLA

In a city like New Orleans, community is everything. Walks down the street, one can simply speak to everyone passing by, and everyone would keep an eye out for one another. Everyone was each other’s neighbor. Eight years ago, prior to Hurricane Katrina, walking around the Lower Ninth Ward meant passing several homes on every block.

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Restoring Balance in an Urban Creek through Green Infrastructure

Ellerbe Creek flows out of the heart of Durham, North Carolina through the community on its 14 mile path to Falls Lake Reservoir, a drinking water source for more than half a million people. It offers a refuge for people and nature from the stresses of city life across its compact 37 square mile watershed. The entire creek has been designated as impaired since 1998 for ecological/biological integrity. Falls Lake Reservoir has similarly been identified as an impaired water body due to excessive levels of nitrates and phosphates associated with poorly managed stormwater and failing waste water systems.

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