Adopt a River for Sustainable Development (Adopt-a-River) has the goal of ameliorating the global water crisis through focused activities on freshwater ecosystems at a local level. The initiative provides a vehicle for engagement and action by community members, private enterprise and other stakeholders concerned about the degradation of freshwater environments and the impact this has on local people. Harnessing the power of communities, linked through a global initiative and backed by strong technical expertise, Adopt-a-River aims to protect, restore and sustain local freshwater ecosystems and ecosystem services to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
A Vehicle for Community Action
Balancing the increasing demands on freshwater resources through good management practices and maintaining the health of freshwater ecosystems is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relating to water and for realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at large.
Adopt-a-River aims to capture the changing mood and increased awareness, both locally and globally, of the importance of healthy freshwater ecosystems and their link to support and sustain human populations. Adopt-a-River programmes will provide an opportunity for communities and local organisations to enact change and improve the local environment for their own benefit and the benefit of others and the ecosystems itself. It is at the local level that efforts to protect the environment must take place, but by linking to broader, national, and international initiatives the local success can be multiplied many times to achieve significant positive change.
Adopting a river is an opportunity to support, sustain and enhance a community by improving, restoring, and protecting the waters and waterways on which the community depends. Adopt-a-River can create significant and long-lasting change for local communities and through combined efforts create a global impact.
The key to protecting and sustaining natural ecosystems is engaging, educating and motivating the communities that live with those ecosystems. For this reason, Rotary Clubs are the key actors in the Adopt-a-River initiative. The clubs, individually or in groups, identify and adopt a local waterbody (river, lake, wetland, estuary, or reservoir) and actively engage with the local community and other stakeholders to identify the major threats to the waterbody and develop a strategic programme to alleviate these threats while also standing as guardians to protect from future negative impacts. The clubs work closely with the community and other key stakeholders including private enterprise and government agencies to raise funds and implement projects to enact their strategy to protect, restore and sustain the waterbody.
The activities of the clubs and the broader initiative are guided by the Adopt-a-River Steering Committee, made up of representatives from Rotary and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Steering Committee also administers the Adopt-a-River Core Fund which seeks funds from national and international private and public donors and distributes funds to assist clubs with project implementation. The work of both the clubs and the Steering Committee is informed by the Adopt-a-River Technical Advisory Group which provides the technical expertise and strategic awareness to ensure best practice is realised throughout the initiative. A vital connecting and communication role is played by the Adopt-a-River Management Team, which provides a link between clubs and other Adopt-a-River entities ensuring appropriate monitoring and reporting as well as identification and communication of best practice.
Adopt-a-River benefits from the active partnership of Rotary International and UNEP creating a unique synergy of the comparative advantages provided by both organizations and their networks. The global mandate and technical expertise of UNEP to drive the global environmental agenda in partnership with countries worldwide and the global reach of Rotary International that is intimately connected to the local community and stakeholders through Rotary Clubs.
Central to Adopt-a-River is the Rotary Clubs and their connection with, and ability to motivate, the communities in which they exist. This strong direct engagement with local communities and stakeholders to drive action and generate change while being cognizant and responsive to regional, national and international programmes, strategies and initiatives is the core of the Adopt-a-River initiative.
What is UNEP
In its role as global steward for the environment, including as the UN custodian agency to monitor and report on a number of Sustainable Development Goal targets relating to the health of water-related ecosystems on land, coasts and oceans. UNEP supports the 193 United Nations Member States to protect and restore the environment and manages a number of partnerships, global networks, information sources and resources which relate to river pollution and freshwater management in line with its Freshwater Strategy 2017-2021. UNEP emphasizes the use of Nature-Based Solutions, or a combination of grey and green solutions where feasible, for water management. Among other assets, UN Environment houses a technical team on freshwater ecosystems, the Global Programme of Action which aims to protect oceans from land-based activities, and the Global Environment Monitoring System for freshwater water quality monitoring.
What is Rotary
Working in a global manner for sustainable development including through its 35,000 clubs with local membership worldwide, Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation have been a powerful force that has transformed millions of lives around the globe since its formation more than 100 years ago. Environmental concerns and the provision of clean water and sanitation are two of its priority areas. Together, a combination of strong, interconnected global mandates, partnerships and local connections can provide a strong foundation for local engagement around protecting and restoring rivers worldwide.