Written by Executive Director John Searby
Last week, your Catawba Riverkeeper – Brandon Jones, and I had the privilege of attending the Waterkeeper Alliance Southeast Regional Summit in Asheville, NC. The four days we spent with other staff from Riverkeepers, Soundkeepers, Baykeepers, and Waterkeepers from around the Southeast was informative, engaging, and inspiring.
For those of your unfamiliar with Waterkeeper Alliance, it is an international organization of which Catawba Riverkeeper is an affiliate along with thousands of other waterkeeper groups around the world. It is a unique group in that it does not influence or dictate our local priorities, it does not weigh in on staffing or budgetary issues of Catawba Riverkeeper, it does not provide regular funding for our local work, and it doesn’t evaluate our outcomes. I would call it a movement more than anything. Waterkeeper Alliance is an organization that connects and convenes likeminded organizations around the world who are focused on preserving and protecting our public waterways. This was my first experience interacting with my fellow leaders in the movement and I came away feeling very honored to be leading this organization and very motivated to give it my all to grow our organization so that we can expand the good work we do.
The structure of the gathering was part educational conference, part networking, part hands on training, and part fun. Every day for four days we had the opportunity to sit in on sessions with topics that were relevant to the WATER of our Catawba River basin – stormwater management, plastics and litter control, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and many more. Every day we had session options about the OPERATION of our organization – finance, fundraising, partnerships, and policies. And every day we had sessions that helped us ENGAGE with other leaders of similar organizations – group paddles, community meals, and organized networking activities.
All in all, both Brandon and I came away armed with more information that is going to make us better at caring for the water. We came away with technical skills that are going to make us better at testing the water and running our organization. And we came away with relationships that are going to support us and provide resources when things get tough. To all of our members and donors who support our organization – THANK YOU for being a part of executing our mission here in the Catawba-Wateree river basin and for being a part of a global movement to protect public waters. To all of our volunteers – THANK YOU for the time you give helping us execute that mission. And to those of you who haven’t yet engaged – don’t wait; become a part of your local protectors in this global movement.
Photo courtesy of Savannah Riverkeeper