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The Human-Land-Water Connection

The environmental movement has been largely one of preserving open spaces and wilderness. As we move into the 21 st Century it becomes imperative to improve the conditions of watersheds in concert with the economic development of the surrounding communities. This can be done in a variety of ways that seek to enhance the experience of Tennessee’s vast natural resources while allowing communities to develop economically in a sustainable manner.

Although Tennessee is blessed with an abundance of scenic beauty and treasured land and water resources, it also possesses many areas of unmitigated blight. As technology and industry advance, levels of pollution rise as well. Often these areas of industry are surrounded by poor, minority communities that have little to no environmental services available to them. TCWN recognizes the need to reach out to these communities and work in partnership to give them the same environmental benefits afforded the more pristine watersheds.

To address these concerns and highlight the importance of water quality to community well-being, TCWN is working to build partnerships and work collaboratively through the following project areas:

1) Partnership for Economic and Environmental Responsibility (PEER): Collaborating for a sustainable future in the Emory River Watershed Located on the junction of East Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau and Cumberland Mountains, the Emory River Watershed is one of the most spectacular and ecologically diverse watersheds in the Southeast. It is an area blessed with magnificent scenery, abundant recreational opportunities, a rich cultural heritage, and a high quality of life for its communities. The natural assets of the watershed – its rivers, parks, and forests – play an integral role in the history, culture, and economy of the area, making the health of these resources essential to the well-being of the local communities.

The outstanding water quality, ecological, and recreational values of the Emory River Watershed are increasingly threatened by numerous activities, including development, industry, mining, logging, oil drilling, and increasing water supply demands.

Today there is an opportunity to reverse these trends and capitalize on the natural assets of the area in such a way that the watershed’s natural resources, scenic surroundings, and rural lifestyle will be preserved for both current and future generations.


TCWN will utilize advocacy, education, community organizing, and coalition-building to protect the integrity of the watershed and improve water quality in areas that have been degraded.

Our work will focus both on water quality and water quantity issues and will engage other partners that are committed to the goal of the campaign, including local communities, conservation organizations, and recreation groups.

2) Environmental Justice (EJ)

As well as working to protect high quality watersheds, TCWN will also look for opportunities to reach out to adversely - affected communities. For the most part, those affected the most by pollution are poor often minority communities. These communities lack the resources and knowledge to exercise their environmental rights.


Our Environmental Justice program will empower affected communities to act as change agents in their own communities.


  • Actively seek out projects that occur in poor, minority communities.
  • Actively seek out community leaders to form partnerships.
  • Work to empower those community leaders to participate in environmental issues.
  • Encourage those leaders to teach their community members about their environmental rights.

Outcome: A community that knows its rights and understands the responsibilities it has to preserve their environment.

Currently, TCWN is not receiving funding to work on EJ projects. We are pursuing opportunities to partner with local organizations and will continue to seek funding sources to support this priority area.


3) Land – Water Linkages

TCWN recognizes the complex interactions of land use, watershed health and water quality. Thoughtful community land use planning and development are critical components in maintaining and restoring water quality. Because land use decisions occur at the state and local level, TCWN will advocate for greater inter-jurisdictional coordination at the watershed level that will result in more effective protection of our water resources. As funding becomes available, TCWN will participate in projects with the following four issues. As always TCWN will seek to support other groups doing this work by signing petitions, action alerts and other forms of outreach.

  • Mining

Cross-ridge mining operations – a form of mountaintop removal – are an imminent threat to Tennessee’s ecosystems, devastating water quality and watershed health, as well as destroying small communities. TCWN recognizes the damaging impacts from these activities and will participate, to the extent possible, in challenges to permits and efforts to stop mountaintop removal and cross ridge mining from spreading in Tennessee.

In addition to new mining activity, Tennessee streams and communities continue to suffer from the legacy of abandoned mine sites.

  • Forestry

Protecting Tennessee forests is vital to the protection of water quality. TCWN recognizes the impacts from destructive harvesting practices, such as soil erosion, increased flooding, loss of wetlands, and destruction of fish and wildlife habitat.

  • Transportation

TCWN recognizes the need for new and improved transportation projects. However, roads can create other larger environmental problems, by increasing sediment to waterways, destroying wetlands, and allowing access and the subsequent impacts to areas that might have once been pristine.

  • Land Acquisition

Through the FERC relicensing process, TCWN was given an opportunity to preserve over 10,000 acres of some of the most biologically diverse lands in the Southern Appalachian region. Although it is not a priority for the organization at this time, we will explore other land acquisition opportunities and will participate in these projects on an as-needed basis.



A primary goal of TCWN is to build the capacity of citizens to be effective advocates for their local watersheds. By providing information, resources, technical assistance, and other support, TCWN is empowering citizens to take action locally and provide a forum for greater communication, networking, and coordination around the protection our state’s waters.

Outreach and Communications

TCWN utilizes a variety of outreach tools to reach citizen groups and other members of the river community in Tennessee.

Goal: To educate the citizens of Tennessee on their environmental rights and the opportunities they have to exercise those rights.


  • E-news : TCWN publishes an electronic newsletter every two weeks to individuals and organizations with up-to-date information on news, action alerts, events, resources, public notices, public hearings, and other items of interest related to water quality in Tennessee.
  • Website: Our window to the world. We have acquired a consultant to help us update and revamp our website.
  • Public speaking engagements: the Staff and Board of Directors are often asked to speak on behalf of TCWN. We take that time to educate the public on water resource issues,citizen rights, and other programs of the organization.
  • The Tennessee Watershed Watch TCWN’s quarterly newsletter has informative articles educating its members on water related issues.
  • Other writer’s forums – The Staff and Board of Directors are often asked to contribute articles to local newspapers and newsletters of other non-profits. We are working on ecuring a monthly column on water-related issues in the Knoxville Sentinel, the Metro Pulse and the Hellbender Press
  • Press releases and press conferences–TCWN issues press releases and holds press conferences on breaking news regarding water related issues.
  • Tabling at Events –TCWN will table at environmental and other related events to educate the general public on water related ssues. We will be reaching out to the motorboating, fishing and hunting groups as new venues to educate the public.
  • Conferences – TCWN will periodically hold conferences to address specific water resource issues, to provide training to river activists, and to convene watershed leaders in the state. TCWN will also participate in conferences related to our programs, organizational development, and other waterresource issues.
  • Hearings – When appropriate, TCWN will attend hearings to express the interests of the public.

Outcome : a more environmentally engaged citizenry.

Watershed Group Assistance

TCWN values the important role that local citizen groups play in the protection of Tennessee’s watersheds. We will continue to work with these groups in the following areas:

  • Capacity-building

By providing information, contacts, and direct assistance, TCWN will provide needed organizational development support to new and exisisting watershed groups across the state

  • Issue-specific assistance

TCWN will provide resources, contacts, and direct assistance to groups seeking assistance with specific watershed protection issues.


TCWN understands the importance of working collaboratively with a variety of partners to fill empty niches and to strengthen the likelihood of positive outcomes. These efforts improve our ability to act as a “network” for clean water issues in the state, as well as build recognition of our organization and our leadership on these issues.

TCWN will make it a priority to maintain existing partnerships and broaden our network to include a diverse set of allies.

Tennessee Clean Water Network | 706 Walnut St. | Knoxville, TN 37902 | Office: 865-522-7007 | Fax: 865-329-2422

[email protected]
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