The local community plays a significant and active role in Waterkeeper’s efforts. Hundreds of volunteers have been recruited since our inception in 2005 to assist with various components of projects and programs; connecting average citizens with activities fundamental to our mission such as water sampling, research, habitat restoration, and outreach efforts.
Additionally, as a small-staffed organization, the local community has proved to be an essential asset by acting as “watchdogs” of their own neighborhoods and alerting us to potential water quality issues that we may not otherwise know about. Waterkeeper welcomes the concerns of local residents, organizes their efforts, and gives professional voice to their issues at planning and policy meetings.
Overall, Waterkeeper’s work serves the diverse residents within our watershed area of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report Riverside and San Bernardino Counties have a combined population of 4.2 million people. Riverside County experienced a 41% increase in population in the last decade, while San Bernardino County saw a 19% increase. Figures indicate the overall population is approximately 47% Hispanic, 37% White, 8% Black, and 6% Asian, with the remainder identifying themselves as mixed. The 2009 Santa Ana Watershed Integrated Regional Plan (SAWIRP) indicates there are multiple cities within the Upper Santa Ana River Watershed that are “disadvantaged”; defined as a distinct area with a household income less than 80% of the California State median household income. According to the SAWIRP, approximately 69% of the cities/communities within the watershed are considered disadvantaged or contain disadvantaged communities.
Most of these communities have little access to parks or open space. Waterkeeper focuses work in these communities in order to establish safe outdoor recreation, hands-on environmental education, public engagement, and long-term preservation of the Santa Ana River and its tributaries. Waterkeeper’s goal is to help establish the remaining urban waterways as legitimate community resources in order to improve the quality of life for all Inland Empire residents.