Waterkeeper Alliance

Waterkeeper Alliance logo white on blue (link)



Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2021):

Revenue: $11,721,218
Expenses: $9,978,228
Assets: $5,512,348




Gloria Reuben

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Waterkeeper Alliance, started by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in 1999, focuses on enforcing environmental laws and preventing pollution, often with aggressive campaigns that have included lawsuits against small farmers.1 The alliance has grown into a network of nearly 300 member groups, which in turn connect with other like-minded groups on a local level to accomplish its goals.2

The alliance calls itself the biggest and quickest-growing nonprofit whose primary focus is clean water, or “swimmable, drinkable, and fishable water everywhere.”.3 Critics say the alliance is a thinly veiled cover for trial lawyers seeking big-money payouts from those they accuse of causing environmental damage.4

Waterkeeper has opposed the use of zero carbon nuclear energy. 5


In 2001, Waterkeeper Alliance led a litigation attack on hog farms. The alliance formed a team of 19 attorneys from around the country to file a series of federal and state environmental lawsuits against major pork producers in the early 2000s. Each of the 13 firms involved kicked in $50,000 to fund the effort.6

Smithfield Farms proved the biggest target, with Kennedy’s team of attorneys filing a federal suit in Tampa, Florida, accusing the producers of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Lawyers contended the company made money from illegal activity because it didn’t have to build sewage treatment facilities. The practice of dumping waste and investing the money saved back into the business constituted money laundering, they argued.7 U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich ruled that the complaint “failed to state anything” worthwhile and forced the alliance to pay Smithfield’s legal fees as she tossed out the case.

Waterkeeper Alliance later pushed a “Pure Farms, Pure Waters” campaign against what it calls a “failure to regulate pollution from industrialized swine, poultry, and dairy facilities that is devastating rivers, lakes, and estuaries.”8 But that effort has been fraught with controversy and plenty of headaches for small farmers.9

Lawsuit against Perdue Farms

Opponents of the alliance’s efforts say the group overreached in its federal lawsuit against Perdue Farms, a major poultry processor, and the family farm of Kristin and Alan Hudson in Berlin, Maryland.10 That included Maryland’s then-Governor Martin O’Malley (D), who said the case, which involved the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic, “uses the economic weapon of unlimited litigation resources — namely, taxpayer supported state resources — to potentially bankrupt and destroy a family farming operation which has no recourse to similarly unlimited litigation assets.”11

Waterkeeper Alliance claimed the farms had violated the federal Clean Water Act, although they complied with state laws. The Hudsons won their case in 2013 and the alliance did not appeal.12 The judge denied the alliance’s motion for attorneys’ fees in the lawsuit, writing “It is most unfortunate that so much time and so many resources were expended on this action that accomplished so little.”13

Climate Change

In recent years, the alliance has increased its efforts on a climate change agenda. In December 2016, it submitted a petition along with Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic to the Environmental Protection Agency calling for it to end all of its federal contracts with ExxonMobil.14

Opposition to Nuclear Energy

In May of 2021, Waterkeeper was one of 715 groups and businesses listed as a co-signer on a letter to the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate that referred to nuclear energy as a “dirty” form of energy production and a “significant” source of pollution. The letter asked federal lawmakers to reduce carbon emissions by creating a “renewable electricity standard” that promoted production of weather dependent power sources such as wind turbines and solar panels, but did not promote low carbon natural gas and zero carbon nuclear energy. 15

Nuclear power plants produce no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions, and as of 2021 accounted for 19 percent of American electricity production—the largest source of zero carbon electricity in the United States. 16 An October 2018 proposal from The Nature Conservancy noted that zero-carbon nuclear plants produced 7.8 percent of total world energy output and recommended reducing carbon emissions by increasing nuclear capacity to 33 percent of total world energy output. 17

Waterkeeper was one of more than 600 co-signing organizations on a January 2019 open letter to Congress titled “Legislation to Address the Urgent Threat of Climate Change.” The signatories declared their support for new laws to bring about “100 percent decarbonization” of the transportation sector but denounced nuclear power as an example of “dirty energy” that should not be included in any legislation promoting the use of so-called “renewable energy.” 18

Gross Dam, Colorado

On September 30, 2022, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Waterkeeper Alliance worked with other environmental organizations including WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club to stop the expansion of the Gross River Dam in Colorado. They filed a lawsuit claiming the permit issued for expansion was unlawful based on the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. 19

The court ultimately ruled in favor of the environmental organizations. In a statement after the ruling, Daniel D. Estrin, General Counsel and Advocacy Director for Waterkeeper Alliance said, “This important victory will now allow us to prove in court that the Clean Water Act permit for this ill-advised and untenable water grab was unlawfully issued. The river, and its ecosystems are dying a proverbial ‘death by a thousand cuts’.” Further adding “We look forward to presenting our legal challenge to this permit in federal court as soon as possible.” 20

Sackett Vs. EPA

Waterkeeper Alliance voiced its clear support for the EPA in the Sackett vs EPA case. Kelly Foster, the Senior Attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance, said “The Clean Water Act was meant to cover all waters in the United States, not just those used for commercial navigation.” Foster felt that if Sackett wins and waters are redefined, “Many iconic and significant waters across the country…could lose federal clean water protections that have been in place for nearly 50 years.” 21



Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. first became involved in the environmental movement after reaching a plea bargain on a charge of heroin possession in 1984. He completed his 800 hours of community service at the Hudson River Foundation, which later became part of Hudson Riverkeeper.22 Following his volunteer work with the group, he became its chief prosecuting attorney and would form Waterkeeper Alliance 15 years later in 1999. 23

Executive Director

Marc Yaggi serves as executive director and received total compensation of $214,080 in 2014, according to the organization’s 2015 IRS form 990.24 He previously served as an attorney and watershed program director for Riverkeeper, Inc., and as a staff attorney for the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.25


Gloria Reuben is the president of the Waterkeeper Alliance as of 2023. Before becoming president, Reueben served as a Trustee with the organization from 2007 to 2010. Before joining the Waterkeeper Alliance, Reuben worked as an advisor to the Climate Reality Project founded by former Vice President Al Gore, served on the Advisory Council of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and was on the Leadership Council for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). 26


Marc Yaggi is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Waterkeeper Alliance as of 2023. Before joining the organization, he served as a Senior Attorney and Watershed Program Director for New York City environmental group Riverkeeper, Inc. In addition, Yaggi served as a Staff Attorney with the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) in Washington, D.C. 27

Board Chair

Glenn Rink is the Chair of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee for Waterkeeper Alliance as of 2023. Rink also serves as president and CEO of AbTech Industries, Inc. focusing on producing green technology. Beforehand, between 1992 and 1995, Rink was the president of HydroGrowth International which produced polymer technology for hydrocarbons. 28


Waterkeeper Alliance reported revenue of $9,921,169 and expenses of $11,339,944 in 2014 on its 990.29

That form reveals that many of the organization’s grants go to sister groups, such as $190,459 to Yadkin Riverkeeper, Inc., $8,745 to Snake River Riverkeeper and $30,050 to Savannah Waterkeeper. The brunt of the group’s work in 2014 was in Central America and the Caribbean, however, as the alliance reported spending $5,348,443 in those regions that year. 30

Keeper Springs Water, which donates all of its profits to groups with the mission of cleaning up keeping waterways, was also founded by Kennedy in 1999. Since that time, the company has donated more than $1 million to Waterways Alliance, of which Waterkeeper Alliance is a part.31

According to its 2021 990 form, the organization’s reported revenue was $15,198,182, its reported expenses were $16,801,593, and its assets totaled $4,821,210. 32


  1. Robinson, Elton. “Agriculture takes on factory environmentalism.” Delta Farm Press December 9, 2011. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  2. Discover the Networks: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Biography. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  3. Waterkeeper Alliance: About Us. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  4. Activist Facts: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  5. “Group letter to Congress urging Green New Deal passage.” Earthworks. January 10, 2019. Accessed July 27, 2023.
  6. Vander Wal, Gretchen. “Waterkeeper Lawsuits Target Pork Industry.” National Hog Farmer. May 15, 2001. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  7. Vander Wal, Gretchen. “Waterkeeper Lawsuits Target Pork Industry.” National Hog Farmer. May 15, 2001. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  8. Guidestar: Waterkeeper Alliance profile. Accessed May 5, 2017.
  9. Save Family Farms: “Judge’s decision on legal fees.” August 27, 2017. Accessed May 9, 2017
  10. Save Family Farms: “Judge’s decision on legal fees.” August 27, 2017. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  11. Staff. “O’Malley chastises law school decisions.” American Farm. November 14, 2011. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  12. Save Family Farms: Waterkeeper Alliance v. Alan Hudson Finds of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  13. Richardson, Lee. “How long until the next anti-farm lawsuit?” Baltimore Sun. September 22, 2013. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  14. Horn, Steve. “Waterkeeper Alliance Calls on EPA to Cut Ties With Exxon.” EcoWatch. December 15, 2016. Accessed May 9 , 2017.
  15. Letter from Center for Biological Diversity et. al. to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Joe Manchin, and Rep. Frank Pallone. “RE: CONGRESS SHOULD ENACT A FEDERAL RENEWABLE ELECTRICITY STANDARD AND REJECT GAS AND FALSE SOLUTIONS.” May 12, 2021. Accessed July 25, 2023.*1c9h3t8*_gcl_au*MTc3NjM3MTM1Mi4xNjg5OTU1MzAz
  16. “Nuclear explained.” U.S. Energy Information Administration. Accessed July 25, 2023.
  17. “The Science of Sustainability.” The Nature Conservancy. October 13, 2018. Accessed July 25, 2023.
  18. “Group letter to Congress urging Green New Deal passage.” Earthworks. January 10, 2019. Accessed July 27, 2023.
  19. Waterkeeper Alliance – “Conservation Groups Win Major Appeal in Challenge to Expansion of Colorado’s Gross Dam.” The Bakersfield Californian. GlobeNewswire, October 4, 2022.
  20. Waterkeeper Alliance – “Conservation Groups Win Major Appeal in Challenge to Expansion of Colorado’s Gross Dam.” The Bakersfield Californian. GlobeNewswire, October 4, 2022.
  21. Eaton, Kristi. “Clean-Water Advocates Add Their Voices to Supreme Court Case That Will Be Heard This Fall.” The Daily Yonder. The Daily Yonder, July 11, 2022.
  22. Walsh, S.M. “Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.” Heavy. July 22, 2016. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  23. Activist Facts: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  24. Guidestar: Waterkeeper Alliance IRS 990 form for 2015. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  25. Waterkeeper Alliance: Marc Yaggi. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  26. “Gloria Reuben.” Waterkeeper Alliance, Accessed November 29, 2023.
  27. “Marc Yaggi.” Waterkeeper Alliance, Accessed November 29, 2023.
  28. “Glenn Rink.” Waterkeeper Alliance, Accessed November 29, 2023.
  29. Guidestar: Waterkeeper Alliance IRS 990 form for 2015. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  30. Guidestar: Waterkeeper Alliance IRS 990 form for 2015. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  31. Keeper Springs Water: About Us. Accessed May 5, 2017.
  32. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990). Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. 2022. Part I.

Directors, Employees & Supporters

Associated Organizations

  1. Rachel Carson Council (Non-profit)

Supported Movements

  1. Green New Deal (GND)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: January 1, 2000

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2021 Jun Form 990 $11,721,218 $9,978,228 $5,512,348 $1,510,463 N $11,662,266 $0 $12,210 $546,666
    2020 Jun Form 990 $17,327,128 $17,809,194 $3,214,848 $1,054,104 N $17,237,129 $0 $6,524 $610,074 PDF
    2019 Jun Form 990 $15,589,366 $17,367,760 $3,117,011 $476,658 N $15,467,851 $0 $12,023 $719,724 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $17,695,017 $15,172,795 $6,902,620 $2,489,844 N $17,601,413 $0 $684 $683,082 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $20,082,608 $19,136,242 $2,584,953 $693,527 N $20,337,032 $0 $111 $693,776 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $16,365,758 $18,000,403 $2,038,627 $1,010,572 N $16,545,879 $0 $6,230 $635,220 PDF
    2015 Jun Form 990 $9,921,169 $11,339,944 $3,290,237 $606,638 N $10,128,759 $0 $9,680 $469,251 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $10,728,210 $8,647,191 $4,360,529 $254,624 N $10,980,966 $0 $0 $236,879 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $4,056,835 $3,643,528 $2,147,041 $122,155 N $3,234,227 $0 $0 $189,114 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $4,417,359 $3,173,765 $1,839,453 $227,874 N $2,873,202 $0 $0 $178,334 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $3,295,505 $3,419,724 $745,623 $377,638 N $3,416,555 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Waterkeeper Alliance

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