Sally Bethea is the founding director and Riverkeeper for the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (UCR), a 5,500-member nonprofit, environmental advocacy organization established in 1994. For more than two decades she has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in her quest for clean and plentiful water in the Chattahoochee River Basin and throughout Georgia.
The Chattahoochee River flows for about 430 miles. The upper Chattahoochee River Basin supplies more than 70 percent of metro Atlanta’s water for drinking and other needs—an annual average of about 450 million gallons per day, which is having a profound impact on the long-term health of the river.
Early in the existence of UCR, Sally had to address the habitual fouling of the River by the City of Atlanta’s sewage treatment discharges and bypasses. Faced with tremendous pressure from the City and State political and business establishments to turn a blind eye to the ongoing pollution, Sally took on the power brokers, led a coalition of plaintiffs in their opposition to the City’s pollution and eventually filed suit against the City. The Clean Water Act citizen suit led to one of the largest and most effective sewage treatment overhauls and cleanups in the country, and Sally continues to monitor and ensure the implementation of the Consent Decree over a decade later.
Sally’s achievements in the environmental community have touched the lives of millions of Georgians providing them with cleaner creeks, streams, lakes and rivers for their drinking water and recreational needs. She is the only individual to serve on the boards of both River Network and Waterkeeper Alliance. As she continues to lead, educate and advocate for clean water in the Chattahoochee River Basin and throughout the country, she will remain a brilliantly wonderful mentor to Waterkeepers and River Network Partners alike.