Cahaba River Society

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Cahaba River Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Birmingham, Alabama. Founded in 1988, their mission is to restore and protect the Cahaba River Watershed and its rich diversity of life. They impact the central Alabama watershed, the Birmingham metro area, and policy at the state, regional, and national level. Their programs are structured to achieve three goals: 1. Inspire River Stewardship 2. Restore the River 3. Build Our Impact

Guiding Principles

  • Protecting the aquatic wildlife of one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world.
  • Creating a healthy environment for all the region’s residents, regardless of income, race, or where they live.
  • Safeguard the quality and supply of local drinking water.
  • Educating youth and adults to improve environmental decision-making.
  • Advocate solutions that are aligned with the restoration of the Cahaba and the growth of local communities.
  • Committed to a balanced, science-based approach to their work.
  • Creating positive partnerships to be a successful consensus builder in the community.

Interest Area

Cahaba River Society serves not only the population of the Cahaba watershed but all people living and working in the Birmingham metropolitan area. The Cahaba is the main drinking water source for the Birmingham Water Works Board, which serves about one-fifth of Alabama’s people. This “peopleshed” of residents and businesses who depend on and value the Cahaba River encompasses over a million people. In addition, they work with many statewide partners to strengthen water resource protection policies at the state level benefiting all the people of Alabama. While the bulk of their members live in the watershed or “peopleshed,” they also have the support of many members throughout the state and across the nation who value the Cahaba River and believe in their work.

Cahaba River Society serves the diverse freshwater creatures who depend on the Cahaba. The Cahaba has more species of fish per mile than any other river in North America and is considered to be nationally and globally significant for freshwater biodiversity by conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy and The World Wildlife Fund.


The Cahaba River Society is recognized nationally for river stewardship and as a leader promoting climate-resilient solutions for growing southeastern communities. In addition to their Water-Smart Growth program and CLEAN education program, they work to improve local, state and federal water quality protections, restore freshwater habitat, promote recreation, greenways and economic growth from tourism, and encourage stewardship of creation with interfaith partners. They are committed to the values of education to build knowledge and commitment to act, collaboration, which is essential to achieve real and lasting stewardship of the Cahaba, and, most importantly, integrity to build the trust and relationships that yield collaboration.

They employ a full range of strategies: education, collaboration, policy advocacy, and, when absolutely necessary, legal action (used only 3 times in their 30 year history).


Some major accomplishments include:

  • bringing water sustainability into the region’s green building movement
  • working since the mid-90’s to improve state and local stormwater regulation and implementation
  • supporting many partners in removing the Marvel dam and restoring Cahaba freshwater wildlife habitat
  • ending crisis-level raw sewage dumping throughout the Birmingham area through a Clean Water Act lawsuit in concert with U.S. EPA
  • creating a Supplemental Environmental Project that secured $30 million to acquire stream buffers in Jefferson County and established the regional Freshwater Land Trust
  • ending chicken waste dumping in the Cahaba, which also removed ½ of all point source nutrient pollution in the watershed through a Clean Water Act lawsuit
  • securing upgrades to statewide and Cahaba water use designations and protections
  • inspiring local, statewide, national and international recognition and support for the Cahaba’s very special human and ecological values

External Links