spearThis year’s River Rally, jointly produced by River Network and Waterkeeper Alliance, brought together nearly 700 clean water leaders from 40 U.S. states and 19 countries to the confluence of three great rivers in Pittsburgh, PA from May 30 to June 2. This annual event educated, empowered and inspired grassroots water advocates to go home and continue protecting their local waterways.

Thanks to Rich Wallin of W2 Films for providing this video recap of River Rally.

River Rally 2014 was the largest international gathering of clean water advocates in the world, with participants from Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Mexico, Peru, Senegal and the United Kingdom. More than 70 workshops and panels shared best practices for watershed restoration, stormwater management, water quality monitoring, water and energy conservation, green infrastructure, habitat restoration, safe drinking water and more.

His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa traveled from Nepal to give blessings to the worldwide river protection movement, while inspiring attendees with his story of trekking with 700 followers at 12,000 feet in the Himalayas on an annual trash removal pilgrimage. His Holiness is a young, charismatic teacher of the Drukpa school of Buddhism who understands the pressure of modern life and offers practical ways to calm and focus our minds.

While introducing His Holiness, Marc Yaggi, Waterkeeper Alliance’s executive director, shared one of the most poignant lessons His Holiness bestowed upon him during a visit to Nepal, which was the connection between how we treat ourselves and how we treat our planet. “As he likes to say, how can we respect ourselves if we don’t respect our planet.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gave a rousing keynote speech on how damaging the environment is destroying our democracy in the U.S.

As Acting Assistant for Water leading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in protecting the nation’s water resources and overseeing the EPA’s WaterSense consumer product labeling program, Nancy Stoner gave an insider’s overview of the current Waters of the U.S. rule-making process that will decide which streams, wetlands and waterways will be protected in the future.

The Tigris Riverkeeper screened a video made in May of a first-ever kayaking trip down the Tigris River in northern Iraq showing thousands of villagers gaining the information they needed to protect their water resources.

River Rally participants experienced an eye-opening report on the state of the growing environmental monitoring movement in China by Ma Jun, a director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs. Ma Jun has helped expose more than 90,000 air and water violations by local and multi-national companies throughout China.

Water advocates participated in the KEEN River Cleanup along the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. Torqeedo showcased its electric motors during the cleanup and one of DJI‘s latest drones made an appearance, which is suitable for a diverse range of tasks including citizen science, surveillance and automated survey. In the past two years, small consumer drones have dramatically lowered the cost of high-quality aerial imaging, making this product a perfect fit for water advocates.

Other highlights included the Blue Wrap Fashion Show, and screenings of the documentary films Triple Divide and DamNation. Bridgestone, one of the events lead sponsors, presented River Network with a $25,000 gift in support of its ongoing work to protect and restore waterways throughout the U.S.

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