9 Best Charities That Help to Conserve Our Rivers (Complete 2023 List)

9 Best Charities That Help to Conserve Our Rivers (Complete 2023 List)

Dennis Kamprad

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It’s estimated that 2 billion people worldwide rely directly on rivers for their daily sustenance. They are also home to some of the most endangered wildlife species on earth. Yet, our rivers are under threat from poorly constructed dams, pollution, climate change, and the introduction of invasive species. Furthermore, only 17% of the world’s free-flowing rivers are protected. Fortunately, many charitable organizations have stood up to help conserve our rivers. So we had to ask: What are the best charities that help to conserve our rivers?

The best charities that help to conserve our rivers are American Rivers, Waterkeeper Alliance and American Whitewater. These charities protect our rivers, hold water polluters accountable and provide opportunities for communities to enjoy the water safely.

Whether you want to promote river conservation, restore and conserve endangered river species, or campaign against harmful industries that are impacting our rivers, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities that help to conserve our rivers are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.

Here’s What All the Best Charities That Help to Conserve Our Rivers Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact and transparency ratings, and achievements. They operate all over the world, from North America to Asia, playing a crucial role in preserving and reestablishing a balanced ecological system through river conservation.

Some of these charities also help to replenish groundwater, prevent flooding, promote biodiversity, and give many people livelihood opportunities. Yet, they all share the same goal of protecting rivers, providing drinkable water, and ensuring that river polluters are held accountable.

These Are the 9 Best Charities That Help to Conserve Our Rivers in 2023

Below are our favorite charities that help to conserve our rivers:

  • American Rivers
  • Waterkeeper Alliance
  • American Whitewater
  • International Rivers
  • Trout Unlimited
  • Rogue RiverKeeper
  • Idaho Rivers United
  • Friends of the Yampa
  • The Nature Conservancy

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

American Rivers: Rivers Connect Us

American Rivers was founded in 1973 by river advocates to ensure that people have access to the water they need while maintaining the health and freedom of rivers. Today, the charity focuses on preserving untamed rivers, repairing damaged rivers, and conserving clean water for both humans and the environment. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: American Rivers has a score of 91% for accountability and transparency from Charity Navigator. The charity also has a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“To restore rivers, protect wildlife, and revitalize local economies.”

American Rivers

What they do: American Rivers restores damaged rivers by removing dams and reconnecting rivers to their floodplains. They also help communities remain resilient in the face of climate change through training and stopping sewage spill pollution by restoring vital wetlands and creating green roofs. Furthermore, the charity works to raise awareness of wild rivers by collecting and sharing personal river stories. They also advocate for federal legislation and more federal administrative efforts to preserve the rivers through their 5,000 miles of Wild campaign.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, American Rivers has restored fish and animal habitats by demolishing more than 200 dams constructed on rivers in over 26 states around the country. They have also preserved more than 150,000 kilometers of native rivers. Additionally, they have engaged over 1.3 million volunteers to clean up more than 261,000 miles of waterways, thereby removing over 32.5 million pounds of trash.

Ways to contribute: You can donate to American Rivers through their website. You can also donate your automobile, truck, or other vehicles to support American Rivers.

Waterkeeper Alliance: Global Water Movement

Waterkeeper Alliance was founded in 1999 by Robert F. Kennedy Jr to safeguard all significant watersheds, rivers, and streams around the world and to make them fishable, swimmable, and drinkable. Today, the organization supports communities to pursue their legal rights to get clean water.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Waterkeeper Alliance has a score of 93% for Accountability and Transparency from Charity Navigator. The charity also has a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“Strengthens and grows a global network of grassroots leaders protecting everyone’s right to clean water.”

Waterkeeper Alliance

What they do: The Waterkeeper Alliance holds water polluters accountable for their actions and protects water globally by collaborating with more than 300 local waterkeeper groups. Moreover, through their clean and safe energy campaign, they seek to protect watersheds and local communities by halting the harmful consequences of fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and burning. Similarly, their pure farms, pure waters campaign raises awareness of harmful industrial pollution, ensures that environmental regulations are followed, and supports traditional family farms.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, the Waterkeeper Alliance has protected more than 2.77 million square miles of waterways in over 45 countries from Canada, to East Asia and Latin America. For example, in the Bahamas, the charity successfully advocated for the ban of oil drilling in the region. Furthermore, in Florida, they conserved and restored water resources for over 15 million Floridians across 45,000 square miles of watershed.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Waterkeeper Alliance through their website. You can also contribute in other ways by giving stock, donating your boat, or purchasing products from their shop.

American Whitewater: Conserving America’s Whitewater Rivers

American Whitewater was founded in 1954 by a group of passionate individuals, including Oscar “Oz” Hawksley, to preserve and conserve whitewater rivers across the United States. Today, the charity is dedicated to protecting whitewater rivers and ensuring that the general public can enjoy clean, free-flowing rivers.

Their impact and transparency ratings: American Whitewater has a score of 97% for Accountability and Transparency from Charity Navigator

“To protect and restore America’s whitewater rivers and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.”

American Whitewater

What they do: American Whitewater works to make rivers available to the public for recreational purposes and educates river enthusiasts on successful river sustainability tactics and advocacy through their stewardship program. Through this model, they then formulate effective regional conservation plans in the Pacific Northwest, California, and Colorado. They also work towards dam removals and negotiate better water flows at dams. In addition, they defend the Clean Water Act and uphold the widely respected American Whitewater Safety Code.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, American Whitewater has won several awards including the Outstanding Contribution to River Management Award from the River Management society. Over the years, they have represented the public interest in more than 100 federally-licensed hydropower projects and worked to remove more than a dozen dams from rivers. In recent years, American Whitewater successfully defended the right to float in Colorado, and spearheaded the effort to reject boat registration bills in 14 states.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to American Whitewater through their website. You can also support the charity by becoming a volunteer.

International Rivers: People. Water. Life.

International Rivers was founded in 1985 by a small group of volunteers to create a global network that protects rivers and advances fair and sustainable energy development. Today, the charity ensures that the rights and voices of communities that depend on rivers are heard.

Their impact and transparency ratings: International Rivers has a score of 86% for Accountability and Transparency from Charity Navigator. The charity also has a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“International Rivers protects rivers and defends the rights of communities that depend on them.”

International Rivers

What they do: International Rivers collaborates with communities that are impacted by dams and those depending on rivers for sustenance to defend their human rights and seek redress for victims. In addition, they conduct in-depth research producing solid facts and evidence to support their policies and campaigns. With this information they advocate to reverse the loss of biodiversity in rivers by stopping dam construction and destructive developments in freshwater areas. Furthermore, they uncover and campaign against environmentally harmful projects by hydropower companies. 

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, International Rivers have worked in over 24 river basins, representing 17% of the world’s land surface. They have been able to halt, prevent or postpone over 217 dam projects in collaboration with their partners. Similarly, they have facilitated 277 grassroots organizations to receive financial support to conserve rivers throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to International Rivers through their website. You can also participate in their annual International Action Day for Rivers.

Trout Unlimited: Fishing. Conservation. Community.

Trout Unlimited was founded in 1959 by 16 fishermen to conserve, protect and restore coldwater fisheries and associated watersheds in North America. Today, the charity brings together anglers and river enthusiasts to conserve our rivers so future generations can experience the joy of seeing wild trout and salmon. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Trout Unlimited has a score of 93% for Accountability and Transparency from Charity Navigator.

“We bring together diverse interests to care for and recover rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon.”

Trout Unlimited

What they do: Trout Unlimited undertakes conservatory activities such as employing cutting-edge scientific knowledge to ensure that salmon and trout have safe places to reproduce in the headwaters. The charity also fosters and preserves a robust legal and regulatory system to protect fish and fishing opportunities. Moreover, they empower the community of angler advocates in conservation through education, training, and outreach. In addition, they rehabilitate areas of water where development has harmed trout and salmon populations as well as fishing opportunities.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, Trout Unlimited work’s has covered over 1 million miles of cold water across North America. In recent years, they have restored more than 400 miles of fish habitat. Similarly, they reconnected another 700 miles by removing fish passage barriers. Furthermore, they successfully advocated for the removal of the 162 year old Edwards dam that was situated on the Kennebec River, to help restore local fish populations. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Trout Unlimited through their website. You can also show support by shopping at their fishing gear shop.

Rogue Riverkeeper: Advocating for A Healthy Watershed

Rogue Riverkeeper was founded in 2008 as a program of KS Wild to conserve the Rogue River in Southwestern Oregon. Today, the charity is dedicated to safeguarding and restoring the natural beauty of the Rogue River basin and its wild inhabitants.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Based on their financial statements, Rogue Riverkeeper spent 89.1% of their income on program services, 8.7% on fundraising and 2.8% on management and other general expenses.

To protect and restore clean water, native fish and healthy communities in the Rogue River Basin through advocacy, accountability, and community engagement.

Rogue Riverkeeper

What they do: Rogue Riverkeeper works to promote, support, and protect the Rogue River and the communities that depend on it at the local, state, and federal levels, through advocacy. They particularly utilize fundamental environmental protection legislations such as the Clean Water Act to improve water quality in the basin. Moreover, they hold polluters accountable and try to prevent pollution runoffs into the river by coordinating water quality monitoring programs and trash clean-ups. In addition, they engage with the local community and support their efforts to advocate for clean water through events such as instructional float tours, river clean-ups, and their annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, Rogue Riverkeeper has remained committed to protecting the natural beauty and health of the Rogue River. For example, they successfully advocated for the demolition of the Gold Ray Dam to improve fish passage and habitat. They also enacted laws outlawing suction dredge mining along more than 24,000 miles of Oregon’s waterways. Today their support base encompasses over 3500 people

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Rogue Riverkeeper through their website. You can also support their cause by filling a water pollution report on their website if you witness such an act.

Idaho Rivers United: Protecting & Restoring Idaho’s Rivers

Idaho Rivers United (IRU) was founded in 1990 by a group of paddlers, anglers, and passionate river conservationists to safeguard and defend the wild and scenic values of rivers across Idaho. Today, the charity is committed to protecting Idaho’s rivers and conserving their wildlife for future generations to appreciate.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Idaho Rivers United has a score 75% for Accountability and Transparency from Charity Navigator. The charity also has a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“To protect and restore the rivers of Idaho.”

Idaho Rivers United

What they do: Idaho Rivers United works to promote water conservation in Idaho’s Rivers by educating and engaging relevant stakeholders. They also work to restore native endangered fish species, such as salmon and steelhead by advocating for the removal of the Lower Snake River dam, which has caused a sharp decline in populations since the 1970s. Furthermore, they work with local authorities to recommend alternative energy sources that are more sustainable, and support the implementation of sustainable water policy.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, Idaho Rivers United has amassed over 3,500 members and remains the only statewide organization working to protect Idaho’s Rivers. For example, in 2017, they successfully won the Clean Water Act suit to protect Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead from dangerously warm river temperatures. They have also been integral to the restoration of the Bear River by securing the removal of a hydroelectric project and preventing the construction of a new dam on the river. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Idaho Rivers United through their website. You can also take action by attending their advocacy events or by signing their petitions

Friends of the Yampa: Preserving the Health of the Yampa River

Friends of the Yampa was founded in 1981 by a group of volunteers to build widespread support for a healthy Yampa River that supports a thriving, diverse economy. Today, the charity protects the recreational and environmental values of the Yampa River through community outreach, environmental programs, and advocacy.

Their impact and transparency ratings: According to their financial statements, Friends of the Yampa spent 54.6% of their income on river conservation.

“To protect and enhance the environmental and recreational integrity of the Yampa River and its tributaries, through stewardship, advocacy, education and partnerships.”

Friends of the Yampa

What they do: Friends of the Yampa organize river clean-ups and help build river habitats along the Yampa River with the help of their volunteer base. They also take part in local, regional, and national policy efforts and campaigns. Further, in collaboration with American Rivers and OARS, they organize an annual Yampa River Awareness project float trip down the Yampa Canyon. In addition, they organize an annual Yampa River festival for Friends of the Yampa to spread awareness of the untamed Yampa River.

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, Friends of the Yampa has awarded grants to over 14 projects working towards the restoration, infrastructure improvements, and reservation of the surrounding water bodies through their Yampa River Fund. Further, the charity successfully completed their 3-year mural project celebrating every inch of the 250-mile Yampa River.

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Friends of the Yampa through their website. You can also support the charity by attending their annual Big Snow Bash fundraising event or by participating in their silent auction.

The Nature Conservancy: Conserving our Lands and Waters

The Nature Conservancy was founded in 1951 by leading scientists, committed citizens, and dedicated leaders to safeguard and preserve nature. Today, the charity influences conservation in more than 70 countries and territories to tackle the most difficult environmental issues, including river conservation. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Nature Conservancy has a score of 87% for Accountability and Transparency from Charity Navigator. The charity also has a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“To conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.”

The Nature Conservancy

What they do: The Nature Conservancy works to protect land and water around the world, including rivers. They do this by collaborating with groups, organizations, and governments to protect migratory fish, rivers and coastal regions. For example, their Tennessee and Cumberland river systems program works to protect biodiverse aquatic species. Furthermore, they are working on a water fund approach to sustain the water supply of the Colorado river. Additionally, they work with a number of partners to study the Bear River to understand its natural systems, and carry out initiatives to safeguard its most endangered areas. 

What they’ve achieved: Since their founding, The Nature Conservancy has run conservation projects in over 76 territories, including rivers. For example, in 2021, the charity worked with local communities to restore 1,100 acres of the Mississippi River natural floodplain after the devastating Missouri River flood in 2019. In the same year, they were integral to the removal of three dams along the Vezisnica River, which is one of the most vital tributaries to the Cehotina River in Montenegro. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to The Nature Conservancy through their website. You can also take action by pledging to support one of their numerous campaigns

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities that help to conserve our rivers. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing a charity’s progress in reaching its targets, the chances are they’re not making a substantial positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their Amazon Smile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

Now it is up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to helping to conserve our rivers – based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,

PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:


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Dennis Kamprad

Dennis is the founder of Impactful Ninja and passionate about enabling you to make a positive impact on the world & society. He started his professional career as a Sustainability Consultant and has worked on several social projects around the world. Outside of work, he is a passionate salsa dancer, fast runner, and multiple Ironman finisher.

Did you know that the internet is a huge polluter of the environment? But fortunately not this site. This site is powered by renewable energy and all hosting-related CO2 emissions are offset by three times as many renewable energy certificates. Find out all about it here.

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