About Us

Photo by Roy Sewall


Our mission is to protect the public’s right to clean water in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and their tributaries. We stop pollution to enhance the safety of our drinking water, protect healthy river habitats, and enhance public use and enjoyment.

Strategic Plan 2020-2022


Potomac Riverkeeper, Inc. was founded in 2000 by a group of local community members who saw the need for stronger enforcement of federal, state, and local clean water protections in local rivers through grassroots advocacy and legal action. Riverkeepers are the eyes and ears of the rivers, the voice of the rivers, and the experts in the rivers, , protecting the public’s rights to clean water. Encompassing the skills of scientists, teachers, law officers, fishermen, and paddlers, Riverkeepers combine a profound knowledge of their waterway, matched with a relentless commitment to protecting clean water and the rule of law.

Ed Merrifield was hired in 2003 as the first Potomac Riverkeeper and President of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network. In 2006, Jeff Kelble was hired as the Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and in 2010 Brent Walls joined the team as Upper Potomac Riverkeeper. Ed Merrifield led the foundation in its early stages to their first successes including filing the first enforcement actions against polluters and testifying before Congress on the intersex fish problem that was plaguing the Potomac River in 2006. Ed retired from being President at the end of 2012, and in 2014 Jeff transitioned to be President and Riverkeeper.

In 2015, Potomac Riverkeeper Network was formed when the organization hired two new Riverkeepers: Mark Frondorf, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and Dean Naujoks, Potomac Riverkeeper as well as Phillip Musegaas, Vice President of Programs and Litigation, to oversee its expanding docket of legal actions. The resulting organization, PRKN, is the sole nonprofit combining assessment, advocacy, legal action, and community engagement to stop pollution in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

After several more years of growth and success defending clean water in the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and their tributaries, Jeff left Potomac Riverkeeper Network, and in 2018 Nancy Stoner, one of the nation’s most experienced water policy experts, joined the organization as the new president, and, along with the board of directors, has helped PRKN expand and deepen its reach throughout the watershed.



Waterkeeper-Alliance-MemberPotomac RIVERKEEPER® Network and its three Riverkeepers are members of WATERKEEPER® Alliance, the world’s fastest-growing environmental movement, uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper organizations and affiliates around the world and focusing citizen action on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. These Waterkeeper organizations are on the frontline of the global water crisis patrolling and protecting more than 1.5 million square miles of waterways on six continents.

The Waterkeeper movement’s mission and our mission is for swimmable, drinkable, fishable waterways worldwide. Our belief is that the best way to achieve this vision is through the Waterkeeper method of grassroots advocacy. Where waters and communities are protected by active Waterkeeper programs, Waterkeepers Alliance makes sure they never have to stand alone. Where waters lack protection, Waterkeepers advocate on their behalf, and for all communities whose right to healthy water is threatened.

Visit www.Waterkeeper.org for more information.


waterkeepers chesapeake memberPotomac Riverkeeper Network and its three Riverkeepers are also members of WATERKEEPERS® Chesapeake, a coalition of nineteen independent programs working to make the waters of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays swimmable and fishable. Waterkeepers Chesapeake amplifies the voices of each Waterkeeper and mobilizes these organizations to fight pollution and champion clean water. The members of Waterkeepers Chesapeake work locally, using grassroots action and advocacy to protect their communities and their waters. They work regionally to share resources and leverage individual organization strengths to expand each Waterkeeper’s capacity for on the water, citizen-based enforcement of environmental laws in the Chesapeake region.

Visit www.WaterkeepersChesapeake.org for more information



PRKN is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance and Waterkeepers Chesapeake. Riverkeeper is a registered trademark and service mark of Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Inc. and is licensed for use herein. PRKN’s EIN # is 54-1982624. Financial statements can be provided upon request.


The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution. Its objective is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. It is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in coordination with state governments.

A key provision of the CWA that is at the core our work is the “citizen suit provision” that states that any citizen may file a lawsuit against any polluter who has allegedly violated the CWA. A membership organization, PRKN can file a lawsuit on the behalf of its members.

The Clean Water Act outlines how to protect rivers and other water bodies and focuses on three basic uses: swimming, fishing and drinking. These basic uses of our rivers are termed “Designated Uses” under the CWA and each use requires very different protections. Each Designated Use category has very specific water quality criteria that must be met to maintain that use. These criteria are then used to determine pollution limits for all facilities permitted to discharge waste. The CWA also established anti-degradation rules, which are a way to keep new or growing sources of pollution from spoiling a pristine steam.

The CWA introduced the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which is a permit system for regulating point sources of pollution – or pollution that comes out of a pipe. Congress exempted some water pollution sources from the point source definition, and are considered to be nonpoint sources. Agricultural stormwater discharges and irrigation return flows were specifically exempted from permit requirements.