Santa Barbara Channelkeeper was founded in 1999 as a program of the Environmental Defense Center, and we became an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2001. But our roots extend much further back…
The original concept of a Waterkeeper dates back to 19th century England, where “Riverkeepers” were hired by private landowners to stand guard over streams on their land and ensure that the waters were healthy, well-stocked with fish and free of poachers.
The modern Waterkeeper movement started in New York in the 1960s, when a band of blue-collar fishermen decided to take a stand against the degradation of the Hudson River by a powerful force threatening their way of life: industrial pollution. Sick of seeing the river they relied on used as a dumping ground for industrial effluent, they formed the first Waterkeeper organization. The Hudson Riverkeeper set about identifying and eliminating the sources of pollution to the river using their boats, sample bottles, environmental laws and a healthy dose of tenacity, and they effectively brought scores of polluters to justice and brought the Hudson River back to health.
Their success inspired others to replicate their model, and several new Waterkeeper groups formed around the country. In response to this surge, the early Waterkeeper organizations banded together with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to found Waterkeeper Alliance in 1999 in order to promote the Waterkeeper model and empower Waterkeepers to protect their local waterbodies.
Now one of the fastest growing environmental movements in the world, we are an alliance of more than 340 independent Waterkeeper organizations on six continents, collectively patrolling and protecting more than 2.7 million square miles of rivers, lakes and coastline. A core value of all Waterkeepers is that human beings have a right to clean water, and that the strength and health of a community is inextricably linked to the cleanliness and safety of its water resources.