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Maintaining Water Quality in a Formerly Flammable River

Maintaining Water Quality in a Formerly Flammable River


Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has been a guardian of Western New York’s fresh water for over 30 years. They work with partners, municipalities, and elected officials to ensure the health and protection of New York State’s Great Lakes and shoreline ecosystems. Waterkeeper has improved water quality through volunteer programs, water quality monitoring, restoration projects, and educational outreach.

All Rights Reserved. Photo. 2022


Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper


While government agencies regularly collect data throughout the Niagara River Watershed (a massive area spanning 1440 square miles over five counties), staffing and budget concerns prevent adequate coverage. Important waterways like the Buffalo River were damaged by heavy industrial use, decimating the water quality. In fact, in January 1968, the Buffalo River caught on fire because it was so heavily polluted. Timely, consistent gathering of data was vital to the mission of cleaning up and maintaining the health of freshwater resources.



Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper created the Riverwatch Citizen Science Program in 2010, recruiting and training concerned citizens.  These volunteers collect monthly data including location, date, temperature, pH, conductivity, total dissolved solids, and turbidity throughout the Watershed. All results are compared to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation water quality standards. These volunteers use the latest testing equipment including the Eureka Manta+.   They serve as a network of ‘eyes on the water’ and help provide surveillance monitoring to bolster regional baseline water quality data.  The consistent data they gather allows Waterkeeper to track the health of the waterways and determine if restoration efforts are having a positive effect on water quality.


By implementing the Riverwatch volunteer program, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has direct impact on protecting the freshwater resources and shoreline ecosystems in Western New York.  They work to protect the water, restore the waterways and surrounding ecosystems, connect people to the waterways, and inspire both economic activity and civic engagement along the waterways.



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