• Milwaukee River Jennifer Foster
  • Water is vital to the economic, cultural and environmental health of Wisconsin. Flowing waters are our state’s lifeblood.

Our Rivers

Give Life

Give Life

Tiny macrophytes, a 200-pound lake sturgeon, the people of La Crosse, 1,000 acres of potatoes, 10,000 cows – all of this life would not be possible without the life-giving sustenance of rivers and groundwater. And if "life" is in part defined by the pleasures derived from water, rivers give generously and unerringly.

Wisconsin's rich biodiversity is as vulnerable as the water it depends on. Aquatic invasive species, pollution and mismanagement are all threats to this web of life. By saving rivers we are saving more than the water, we are protecting an entire ecosystem.

Make and Build an Economy

Make and Build an Economy

From lakeside resorts to paper mills, from bass tournaments to water parks, water plays a central role in Wisconsin's economy. Historically and today there is tension – played out in town halls, courtrooms, and taverns -- between how we use water to support a healthy economy and how we ensure that use is compatible with sustaining our water.

Water policy in Wisconsin should balance the economic interests of large industries and agriculture, which often have a greater impact on water resources, with the needs of smaller businesses like resorts, microbreweries and outfitters that depend on excellent water quality.

Reflect Who We Are

Reflect Who We Are

Wisconsin's identity is tied as closely to water as it is to cheese and football. Every person in the state lives within a few miles of a stream or lake. Whether it is ice fishing in the middle of winter or harvesting wild rice, how we use and enjoy water reflects who we are as Wisconsinites.

It is easy to see why Wisconsin citizens are such fierce defenders of their water resources. Wisconsin water is uniquely protected in the state constitution under the Public Trust Doctrine and all elected officials are expected to make water quality a top legislative priority.

How We Save Rivers

  • Advocate

    We advocate respectfully but assertively for rivers.

  • Inform

    We bring people to rivers so they experience their beauty and understand their threats.

  • Lobby

    We partner with, when appropriate, and challenge, when necessary, the government agencies entrusted with protecting rivers.

  • Organize

    We develop the ability of ordinary citizens and grassroots groups to organize their passion for rivers.

The Power of Citizens

  • Individuals

    Every person has a right and a responsibility to voice their concerns and their praise to elected officials.

  • Local Groups

    Grassroots groups and advocacy at the local level can have the most immediate impact on a conservation issue.

  • Members

    As a member of the River Alliance you blend your voice with thousands of others in calling for sound environmental policy and fair and open decision-making.


  • Aquatic Invasive Species

    Aquatic Invasive Species

    Invasives threaten the survival of native plants and animals, interfere with ecosystem functions, and hybridize with native species resulting in negative genetic impacts. They impede industry, threaten agriculture, endanger human health, and are becoming increasingly difficult to control.

  • Negligence & Indifference

    Negligence & Indifference

    Long-neglected and abandoned industrial waterfronts can become economic and aesthetic assets to urban centers. Besides, cities are where people live and urban people ought to have access to clean and beautiful rivers.

  • Polluted Runoff

    Polluted Runoff

    Polluted runoff – largely from farms, but also from streets, construction sites and badly managed shorelines – is the by far the biggest water quality threat to rivers.

  • Wasteful Use

    Wasteful Use

    Most of Wisconsin's rivers, lakes and wetlands simply would not exist without an ample groundwater supply. It has long been assumed that our groundwater supplies are inexhaustible, but in some parts of the state, water is being pumped out of the ground at a far greater rate than it can be replenished.