Inland Empire Waterkeeper's mission is to protect and enhance the water quality of the Upper Santa Ana River Watershed through programs of advocacy, education, research, restoration, and enforcement. 

Inland Empire Waterkeeper History 

Started as a chapter of Orange County Coastkeeper in 2005, Inland Empire Waterkeeper is an affiliate of the international Waterkeeper Alliance; a grassroots environmental movement started in 1999 that supports the protection of waterways and the right to clean water in watersheds around the world. 

Waterkeeper was created by Orange County Coastkeeper to tackle the upstream issues taking place in the Inland Empire area (encompassing the metropolitan area of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and the upper half of the Santa Ana River Watershed), while they focus efforts downstream in the lower coastal region. Although we share the same 501(c)(3) number with Orange County Coastkeeper, we maintain separate budgets, offices, staff, and projects. 

Our full-time professional staff has expertise in law and public policy, governmental relations, environmental science, stormwater management, biology, chemistry, education, and communications.


About Orange County Coastkeeper 

Orange County Coastkeeper (Coastkeeper) is an independent non-profit organization founded in 1999 by CEO Garry Brown. The mission of Orange County Coastkeeper is to protect and promote water resources that are drinkable, fishable, swimmable, and sustainable. Coastkeeper is an affiliate of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a worldwide association of “Keeper” organizations that advocate for clean water worldwide. Coastkeeper serves as a proactive steward of fresh and saltwater ecosystems. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources and aquatic habitats for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, and enforcement.

Coastkeeper efforts include: 1) advocacy efforts involving Ocean desalination, Trash reduction, MS4 permits, and TMDL implementation, 2) creek, river, and beach trash pickups 3) watershed education programs at schools and 4) eelgrass and oyster restoration in Upper Newport Bay 5)supporting Marine Protected Areas and advocating protection. Learn more about Coastkeeper here

Inland Empire Waterkeeper Community

community.pngThe 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 a 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.

See below for a map of the Upper Santa Ana River Watershed.