Our Story

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper® is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the quality and quantity of water, while connecting people to water. 

We do this by cleaning up pollution from our waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, and enhancing public access through greenways that expand parks and open space.

For over 25 years, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper® has been leading a regional transformation in the rust belt towards a blue economy while bringing together multiple partners, community leaders, and other non-profits to showcase an international restoration model for the Great Lakes. At our offices on 721 Main Street in Buffalo, we now have over over twenty full-time professionals working in 40+ program areas to advance solutions for complex environmental problems.


In 1989, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) completed the first Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan (RAP). That same year, concerned citizens formed the “Friends of the Buffalo River”, a group focused on the environmental health of the Buffalo River – one of the 43 Areas of Concern (AOC) along the Great Lakes. The group worked throughout the 1990’s, protecting areas along the river from further industrial degradation and collaborating on three Buffalo River habitat restoration projects.

By the year 2000, Friends of the Buffalo River had expanded the scope of their mission to include the Niagara River, and a year later hired their first paid employee. In 2003, “Friends of the Buffalo and Niagara River” (FBNR) became the first nonprofit organization in the Great Lakes Basin to receive funding and authority from the USEPA to coordinate and manage the implementation of a RAP. By mid-decade, FBNR became a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance and shortened their name to Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

Over the next five years, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, now Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper:

  • Became the first non-profit to sign a Great Lakes Legacy Act Project Agreement with the USEPA-GLNPO in the upper Buffalo River
  • Signed a $3 million Great Lakes Legacy Act agreement with USEPA-GLNPO and Honeywell.
  • Was awarded $1.9 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant funding.
  • Fostered a partnership on the first of many projects with the Buffalo Sewer Authority.
  • Expanded and moved from office space at 1250 Niagara Street to 721 Main Street.
  • Started their first Rain Barrel and River Tour programs.

Continuing a trajectory of growth, they are now an organization with over twenty-one employees and an ever-broadening support system in the Buffalo-Niagara region. As a science-based, community-focused, advocacy organization in Western New York, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper® maintains a dedication to protecting and restoring our most valuable natural asset.