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Our Story

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper protects and restores our water and surrounding ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations.

We protect clean water. We restore the health of ecosystems. We connect people to water. We inspire economic growth and community engagement.

Our Story’s Overview

For 35 years, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has been the guardian of Western New York’s fresh water as a part of the globally significant Great Lakes basin.  

Our mission is four-fold: we PROTECT the water, we RESTORE both the waterways and the surrounding ecosystems, we CONNECT people to their waterways, and we INSPIRE both economic activity along the waterways and community engagement.

Just like our region, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s story is one of triumph over adversity, commitment and persistence in the face of nearly insurmountable challenges, and revitalization. Friends of the Buffalo River, now Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, was formed in 1989 to address the challenges of a waterway that had been declared dead for 20 years. Our organization has worked tirelessly for the last three decades, and with many partners, to bring the Buffalo River back to life. It’s a tremendous, largely untold success story that played an integral role in the city’s resurgence and renaissance in recent years. 

The story of the Buffalo River is a tale of caution, determination, hope and resurgence, and our mission going forward is to work to achieve the same success for our other waterways. From restoring the highly impaired yet historically and culturally significant Scajaquada Creek, to transforming our degraded banks into living shorelines, engaging WNY’s youth in hands-on experiences in their natural world, monitoring our water quality and working to keep pollutants out of it, enhancing public access to our waterways and protecting our precious headwaters, our work doesn’t end. 

Today, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is managing over 70 construction projects, community engagement programs and state and federal advocacy campaigns to ensure clean water for our families and for future generations. 

Our Life’s Work

Our work covers the Niagara River/Lake Erie Watershed, which spans 1,440 square miles over five counties:

Erie, Niagara, Wyoming, Orleans and Genesee. With over 60 projects in a year, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper currently focuses its work across five initiatives:

Protecting the Headwaters

The precious source waters throughout the Borderland that eventually flow into the larger water bodies in our watershed and become our drinking water.

Waterway Revitalization

Restoring the waterways throughout our watershed, as we have done for the Buffalo River. We want to continue to do the same good work for the rest of the waterways in our watershed, while opening up public access.

Scajaquada Creek

A holistic approach to the restoration of Scajaquada Creek and its corridor.

Living Shorelines

Over 80% of the shorelines in the Niagara River Watershed have degradation, and our Living Shorelines initiative restores vital habitats along our waterways, while reducing pollution and flooding concerns.

Education & Engagement

With nearly 3,000 community members volunteering annually we are actively engaging the community in taking care of its waterways! Our education programs such as Water Academy and Young Environmental Leaders Program are helping to build the next generation of stewards for our water and environment. Additionally, this initiative focuses on access and environmental justice issues for our community. Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s success over the last three decades can be credited to our collaborative, partnership approach to the environmental problems our region faces. The people of WNY love their communities, and we’ve found that partnering to find sustainable solutions and restore the health of our waterways and ecosystems yields better results here than trying to force people’s hand. Part of our work is changing the paradigm and the way people think about conservation and sustainability. Looking at the success of the Buffalo River restoration, it is clear that clean water is an economic driver. It pays to invest in our environment.