Restoring Urban Rivers, Revitalizing Communities

Schuylkill River, Philadelphia

Schuylkill River, Philadelphia, PA | Ed Yakovich

Rivers connect us. They link our cities and towns, create opportunities to be outside fishing and swimming with our families and friends, and shape a sense of place that ties people together. In many urban areas, however, people are often disconnected from rivers.

Protecting and restoring these urban waters goes hand in hand with revitalizing communities. Cities across the country that have invested in both redevelopment and restoring their rivers not only regain cleaner water, but also regain an economic vibrancy and a sense of place critical to any community.

American Rivers is working to reconnect communities with their urban rivers through blue trails and river cleanups and advocates for innovative approaches to water management like green infrastructure, natural flood management, and water efficiency practices.

We work at the local, state and national level to protect and restore our urban waterways and create valuable community assets.

Connecting People to the River

national river cleanup with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

River Cleanup | Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

National River Cleanup®

American Rivers is a proud sponsor of National River Cleanup, the most popular and successful stream cleanup program in the country that taps into the civic pride of tens of thousands of volunteers across the country.

National River Cleanup was launched in 1991, offering support to individuals, organizations and anyone interested in conducting a cleanup on their local river. Since its start, more than a million volunteers have participated in thousands of cleanups across the country covering more than 205,500 miles of waterways.

These cleanups have removed more than 13 million pounds of litter and debris from America’s rivers and streams.

Blue Trails

In urban areas, people are often disconnected from rivers. Blue Trails help connect people to their local rivers and increase access to recreational opportunities. Though many rivers have suffered from decades of neglect, pollution, and other ills, communities are taking steps to connect with their rivers through recreation and environmental education.

American Rivers is forging partnerships with land trusts, recreational groups, and others to create Blue Trails as an innovative way to protect clean water and critical lands along rivers, while promoting river recreation, sustainable economic development, and community pride.

Transforming Water Management

Green Infrastructure

rainwater from downspout

Every year, billions of gallons of rainwater fall on surfaces that cannot absorb them. That water goes into urban rivers. Find out how green infrastructure could save money while protecting your clean water.

American Rivers works on the local, state, and federal levels to advocate for green infrastructure, a cost-effective approach to stormwater management that works with nature by using techniques such as green roofs, rain gardens and porous pavement to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and flooding while improving quality of life and valuable neighborhood greenspace.

We also work to ensure that there is funding available to communities to implement these approaches and advocate for corresponding requirements and incentives in state and federal policy, such as reforming national regulations to control polluted stormwater runoff.

Natural Flood Management

American Rivers also works to keep urban communities safer through natural flood protection, focusing on protecting and restoring wetlands and floodplains, and by restoring a river’s natural flow and floodplain wetlands. Wetlands act as natural sponges – a single acre of wetland, saturated to a depth of one foot, will retain 330,000 gallons of water enough to flood thirteen average-sized homes thigh-deep. Natural flood protection provides urban communities with cleaner water, increased recreational opportunities, and safer alternatives to failing dams and levees.

Water Efficiency

American Rivers works with local communities to adopt policies that increase water efficiency and decrease water waste. Water efficiency practices are not about using less water, but rather about using the water we have already more wisely. At the local level, water efficiency has been well-proven to provide increased water resources and to save communities tax dollars.

Dam Removal

American Rivers is also making urban communities safer by restoring rivers through the removal of unsafe and obsolete dams. For example, we’re managing the Darby Creek Restoration Project in metropolitan Philadelphia. This $1.3 million project involves the removal of three dams and a set of abandoned railroad piers, restoring the lower 9.7 miles of Darby Creek to free-flowing condition. This highly visible effort has reduced local flooding problems in this urbanized watershed, and enhanced river access in two heavily-used parks.