River Rally 2014: A Wrap-Up

River Rally 2014, a joint production of River Network and Waterkeeper Alliance, was a grand success, thanks to our community, committed sponsors, dedicated volunteers, and talented team. If you missed the event, or just need to get re-inspired, check out this short video.

Nearly 700 water advocates representing 40 US states and 19 countries came together in Pittsburgh, PA from May 30 through June 2. They attended 70 workshops and panels and shared best practices for watershed restoration, stormwater management, water quality monitoring, water and energy conservation, green infrastructure, habitat restoration, safe drinking water and nonprofit sustainability.

Not only was this event the largest gathering of water advocates in the U.S., it was also the largest international gathering of its kind with participants from Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Mexico, Peru, Senegal and the United Kingdom. Participants would rise early each day for meetings with their peers, attend a wide selection of well-structured and engaging sessions and field trips throughout the day, and then stay up late for evening activities and networking.

His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa traveled from Nepal to give blessings to the worldwide river protection movement, inspiring attendees to set bold goals. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gave a rousing keynote speech on how damaging the environment is destroying our democracy in the U.S. Nancy Stoner, US EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, provided an insider’s overview of the current Waters of the U.S. rule-making process that will decide which streams, wetlands and waterways will be protected in the future. Ma June delivered an insightful presentation about the environmental movement in China, the focus on water and how empowered citizens can make a huge difference. And our plenary panel on fracking (see separate article) give participants new insights in how to deal with this threat. Bridgestone, one of the events lead sponsors, presented River Network, with a $25,000 gift in support of its ongoing work to protect and restore waterways throughout the U.S.

Field trips, including the KEEN River Cleanup, gave folks the opportunity to adventure on the rivers flowing through Pittsburgh (Monongahela, Allegheny, and the Ohio) that support the water needs of people in many cities and towns in this part of the country. Torqeedo showcased its electric motors during the cleanup and one of DJI‘s latest drones made an appearance, which is suitable for a diverse range of tasks including citizen science, surveillance and automated survey. In the past two years, small consumer drones have dramatically lowered the cost of high-quality aerial imaging, making this product a perfect fit for water advocates.

Other highlights included the talent night, Blue Wrap Fashion Show, screenings of the documentary films Triple Divide and DamNation, impromptu music jam sessions with folks who brought their instruments, and of course an incredible awards banquet. Make sure to check out this year’s River Heroes.

This annual event educated, empowered and inspired grassroots water advocates to go home and continue protecting their local waterways. It did exactly what was promised.