Water Watchers

Who are Water Watchers?

Water Watchers are volunteers who’ve taken Catawba Riverkeeper’s course on how to take action when they see pollution.

What do Water Watchers do?

The short answer: Identify, document, and report pollution.

The long answer:With 5,000 square miles of waterways in our basin, a single Riverkeeper can’t be everywhere. That’s why CRF relies on a network of trained volunteers – Water Watchers – to help identify, document, and report pollution.

Sometimes, Water Watchers will independently spot a problem, document it, and report it to the proper authorities. Other times, Water Watchers will be called upon to investigate a problem reported to the CRF office by a basin resident.

For example, often times a concerned citizen who saw a lot of sediment runoff a construction site into a nearby creek or cove will call the CRF office to report the issue. If one of our Water Watchers lives near the site of the pollution, we’ll call on them to check out the problem and report it to the proper state or local authority. With a network of trained volunteers, CRF is able to multiply the work of a single Riverkeeper, exponentially.

Why are Water Watchers important?

State and local environmental enforcement agencies are limited by their budgets and small staffs. Volunteer Water Watchers essentially triage the basin’s problems for the authorities. With more people on the ground/water identifying and reporting problems, our waterways are healthier.


Do I have to live on a lake or own a boat to be a Water Watcher?

No. Water Watchers don’t have to live on a lake or own a boat. All the waterways in our basin need advocates. While some of our Water Watchers go on to become Covekeepers (volunteers who take on patrol zones on our major lakes), many serve as the eyes and ears of local streams. There are 5,000 square miles of waterways in our basin. It’s not just the major lakes who need Water Watchers. Our creeks need Water Watchers too.

Do I have to have an environmental science background to be a Water Watcher?

No. Water Watchers don’t have to have an environmental science background. Anyone who wants to learn how to stop and prevent pollution is invited to become a Water Watcher. In a one-day course, you’ll learn about sedimentation and erosion controls, Best Management Practices (BMPs), how to document issues, and to whom to report the problems. The course is interactive and includes a site visit to an active construction where trainees can demonstrate their knowledge.

Catawba Riverkeeper plans to host 6 Water Watcher training sessions this year. We hope you’ll sign up for one near you.

When is the next Water Watcher training course near me?

Lake Wateree: TBA (Summer)          

Lake James: Fall TBA (Fall)

 Is the Water Watcher training course free?

Yes. Thanks to grants and contributions from CRF members, the Water Watcher training course is entirely free. This includes course materials and lunch.

Special thanks goes to the Carrie E. and Lena V. Glenn Foundation, the Lincoln County Community Foundation, and the York County Community Foundation for funding Water Watcher training sessions in Gaston, Lincoln, and York Counties, respectively.

What’s the difference between a Water Watcher, a Covekeeper, a Lakekeeper, and a Riverkeeper?

Water Watchers is the name given to all volunteers who’ve taken CRF’s course on identifying, documenting, and reporting pollution.

Covekeepers are Water Watchers who patrol the major lakes and attend monthly meetings near the lake they serve.

Lakekeepers are the leaders of each Covekeeper group.

The Riverkeeper is a staff position at CRF. The Riverkeeper directs all of the technical work of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.

 Water Watcher training

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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
More news…
Report Pollution in the Catawba River

Help protect your River! 

Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

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715 N. Church St., Suite 120 . Charlotte, NC 28202 . Phone: 704.679.9494 . Fax: 704.679.9559