History & Successes

Alabama has more than 132,000 miles of rivers and streams, and a passionately dedicated movement of advocates, policy wonks, scientists, nature lovers, recreationists, artists, and families who have worked together to protect our waterways for now and future generations. The Alabama Rivers Alliance has been a key leader in that movement for more than 25 years.

In 1993, the Alabama State Rivers Coalition was created as a union of visionary organizations with a common goal: to protect the lifeblood of Alabama: her rivers. Leading the charge were environmental stalwarts like Cahaba River Society, Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club, Lake Watch of Lake Martin, Alabama Citizen Action, Friends of the Locust Fork River, and the Alabama Environmental Council.

In September of 1996, the founding Board of Directors of the Alabama Rivers Alliance gathered. With a vision for cleaner, healthier, and more abundantly free-flowing waterways, we set out to define our mission. Over the following months, ARA crafted a strategic plan, and applied for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. 

ARA officially began its path to build and support a collective statewide voice for Alabama’s rivers on July 1, 1997. Today, the Alabama Rivers Alliance is nationally recognized for our work protecting and defending Alabama’s rivers, and water resources for people and nature and our movement consists of more than 100 community based and watershed based partners. With six dedicated team members and up to ten fellows and interns each year, ARA has grown its annual operating budget to more than $600,000, a testament to the growing support for our leadership and expertise.

The Alabama Rivers Alliance is privately funded, and all our work is made possible by the generosity of individuals who share their commitment to preserving all of Alabama’s rivers. By supporting the Alabama Rivers Alliance, you become a vital part of this ongoing story. Your contribution is a ripple that can create waves of change. Join us in protecting the heart and soul of Alabama—its rivers. Click here to support our work today.

Since our founding, the Alabama Rivers Alliance has worked alongside multiple stakeholders to accomplish many shared successes for our rivers such as:

  • Working closely with community leaders in the Steele, Gallant and Chandler Mountain areas to stop Alabama Power from moving forward with its plans to build an ill-conceived pumped storage hydropower project, which would have included five new dams and two reservoirs, flooded more than 1,500 acres, forced community members from their family lands and farms, and degraded habitat for multiple threatened and endangered aquatic species.  
  • Successfully advocated to the governor of Alabama to direct state agencies to develop recommendations for a comprehensive water management plan for Alabama with stakeholder input.
  • Won a precedent-setting federal case, with SELC, that vacated the hydropower license for 7 dams on the Coosa River requiring FERC to complete an Environmental Impact Statement considering the harms to the river ecosystem and aquatic life.
  • Worked with 17 environmental organizations to lead a successful petition strengthening the cancer risk standards for Alabama’s waterways, resulting in a reduction of risk from 1 in 1 million to 1 in 100,000 risk level.
  • Drafted The SHOR Act of 2023, which was introduced to bipartisan support and passed both the House and Senate unanimously in 2023      
  • Assisted in building, uniting, and supporting more than 100 grassroots watershed organizations throughout the state. 
  • Worked with multiple stakeholders to designate some of Alabama’s most ecologically significant rivers and streams as “Outstanding Alabama Waters.” 
  • Hosted Alabama Water Rally, Alabama’s annual gathering of clean water advocates, to fulfill the goal of “building, supporting, and uniting” grassroots organizations for more than 25 years. 
  • Working with the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and other partners, formed the Tristate Conservation Coalition to protect downstream and in-stream interests throughout the early water negotiations between Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. 
  • Helped create the ADEM Reform Coalition, in order to reform Alabama’s environmental agency to better serve Alabamians
  • Assumed leadership of the Southern Exposure Film Fellowship program and to date have created dozens of multiple-award winning films, which have been shown to thousands of engaged audiences across Alabama, and screened at film festivals across the globe.
  • Working with the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation, ARA sued Sloss Industries and the EPA, which eventually resulted in the largest fine in state history, a significant reduction of pollution, and the upgrade of a stream classification for Five Mile Creek in Jefferson County.  
  • Worked with local advocates to defeat a proposal for a jail on Turkey Creek, which resulted in the creation of a park on the creek that will help to protect the endangered Vermillion darter. 
  • Working with a coalition throughout Jefferson County, defeated the aptly named, 12-foot diameter “supersewer” planned to tunnel under the Cahaba River 15 times. 
  • Along with American Rivers, ARA prevailed in a significant federal court case, establishing firmly that the Clean Water Act applies to water releases from hydropower dams. 
  • Working with the Friends of the Locust Fork and other partners, protected the Locust Fork River from multiple water supply dam proposals.