> Miami Waterkeeper

A non-profit focused on keeping the water in South Florida clean

Miami Waterkeeper is a nonprofit focused on keeping the water in South Florida clean. Through community outreach, education, science-based research, and legal advocacy, Miami Waterkeeper aims to ensure swimmable, drinkable, and fishable water for all.

Rachel Silverstein, Miami Waterkeeper’s Executive Director, began running Waterkeeper in June of 2014. The organization is part of an international network of water nonprofits that are members of the Waterkeeper Alliance. “We’re all independent nonprofits focused on our own local watersheds,” Silverstein explains; her jurisdiction is Miami-Dade and Broward County.

“We basically cover from the Everglades out to the reef.” Waterkeeper functions as a community watchdog organization stewarding the local waterways, making sure they’re kept clean and safe for the environment, and for our community needs.


We believe clean water is what makes Miami, Miami,” says Silverstein. “It’s what makes people live here. It’s central to our culture here, our economy, our community, our environment.” Miami Waterkeeper focuses on three major themes: clean water and water pollution; habitat protection (coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves, dunes); and finding sea level rise resiliency.

Silverstein is a San Diego native with a PhD in coral reef ecology from the University of Miami and has worked on the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard. She says she wanted to advocate to protect coral reefs because they’re disappearing so quickly. “I felt this position was a good mix of science, policy, and making change to protect the environment that I love,” says Silverstein.

Though you can never really solve the region’s water-related problems, Miami Waterkeeper has had some impressive successes. They were able to stop a sewage leak within a matter of days that had been ignored for over a year. They were able to get several hundred Endangered Species Act-listed corals rescued during the PortMiami Deep Dredge project, and over 10,000 replaced out on the reef.

They’ve also achieved tangible improvements in how dredging projects will be conducted in the future, because of how the 2013-2015 Port of Miami dredging project damaged hundreds of thousands of corals. Silverstein takes pride in Miami Waterkeeper’s “unique approach” in combining science with community outreach, and legal and political advocacy. With lawyers, scientists, and education specialists on staff, they approach problems from all of these angles. They’re also “hyperlocal,” says Silverstein, “so we can respond to issues and events in our community very quickly.”

Despite tangible progress, “there’s no shortage of work in our area,” says Silverstein. “One of the most difficult things we deal with is having a limited capacity as a small nonprofit. So we’re always trying to grow.” Everything the organization deals with is urgent, but Silverstein says sea level rise is particularly pressing in the Miami region. “It’s the issue that affects all other issues we talk about in our community,” she says.

“From public health, to security, to the environment, to schools, hospitals, emergency services.” Many changes will have to be made in the days and years to come, she says, in terms of infrastructure, and how people live in this part of the world. Miami Waterkeeper is a grassroots organization that can’t do their work without the community. A lot of their funding comes from donations, and they have many volunteer events that people can come to.

They have a program called “1000 Eyes on the Water” that trains community members to identify, document, and report pollution in their neighborhood and on the water as they go about their daily lives. Miami Waterkeeper also shares their water sampling data through an app called Swim Guide, which is free and updated weekly with the latest information about where it’s safe to swim.

Miami Waterkeeper

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