2012 River Heroes: Bill Deutsch and Mike Mullen

by | Mar 27, 2012 | Uncategorized

Many Alabama Water Watch monitors, Association members, and staff participated in the 14th Annual Alabama Water Rally which is hosted each year by the Alabama Rivers Alliance.  This year’s Rally took place at Camp Beckwith on beautiful Weeks Bay on March 16th-18th. It was a particularly special weekend as participants celebrated several milestones of water protection for Alabama including the 15th Anniversary for Alabama Rivers Alliance (ARA), the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, and the 20th Anniversary for Alabama Water Watch (AWW). There was even a special birthday cake to commemorate the occasion.

Throughout the weekend participants were given opportunities to expand their knowledge of water policy, advocacy strategies, community organizing, and current water issues facing Alabamians by participating in concurrent sessions led by national experts.  Keynote speakers included Nancy Stoner who is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the U.S.EPA Office of Water.

One Water Rally tradition is the presentation of River Celebration Awards. These awards are given to individuals and organizations that have gone far and beyond in their efforts to protect and restore water quality in Alabama. Among this year’s winners were several Alabama Water Watchers.

Photo – courtesy of John Wathen

The Watershed Group of the Year Award was given to Save Our Saugahatchee and Friends of Chewacla and Uphapee Creeks from the Auburn area and was accepted by Rita Grub, SOS Secretary and AWW Program Office Coordinator (pictured above, receiving the award from Mitch Reid, ARA). Both of these groups have devoted water monitoring programs and were recognized by ARA for the active role they have played recently in spreading the word about the need for comprehensive water policy in Alabama, and pushing legislators to move forward in developing a water plan for our state.  In addition, the Coosa Riverkeeper who is led by Frank Chitwood, an active AWW monitor was awarded Best New Group of the Year for all of the positive initiatives they have begun in the Coosa. Congrats to these groups!

Photo – courtesy of John Wathen

The River Heroes awards are considered a lifetime achievement award and are given to people who have made it their life’s work to protect and restore Alabama’s waters, and who serve as examples for others to do the same. Bill Deutsch, AWW Director was asked to present a River Hero award to Mike Mullen who is the Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, a long -time and avid AWW monitor, and founding member of the AWW Association (pictured above with ARA Executive Director, Cindy Lowry). Bill noted that through the weekend one of the resounding messages had been that we are all in this fight for clean water together, but he noted that we are a diverse group. There are many who could be considered science “geeks” who love the data collection and analysis, others have the “fire in the belly” for clean water and go at it with raw emotion and energy, some are dedicated to educating children, and others are in the trenches fighting for good water policy. Mike Mullen is one of the rare individuals who encompasses all of those….he is a true River Hero.

Photo – courtesy of John Wathen

Much to his surprise, Bill Deutsch was not only presenting a River Hero award this year, he was also named a River Hero primarily for his role in not only beginning the Alabama Water Watch Program 20 years ago in a state where many said it was impossible, but taking the Alabama model of community based water monitoring and applying it on a global scale through Global Water Watch (pictured above, with Cindy Lowry). As ARA Executive Director Cindy Lowry announced his award, she noted that AWW has been a model citizen water monitoring program on a national and international level. It is safe to say that Bill’s dedication to this program and to empowering citizens to take part in watershed stewardship has played a pivotal role in its success. As Bill accepted the award he noted that his major reason for coming to Alabama 27 years ago was that with his lab work he had gained a great knowledge and understanding of rivers, but kept seeing them go down in quality. He realized that there was a missing link in river protection and restoration– the people.  Many respect and admire Bill for his ability to convey his passion for water to people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures through his words and actions.  He has inspired people throughout the world to make a difference in water quality in their communities. He is a mentor and River Hero to many, and we are proud to have him as our Director and friend.

Congratulations Mike and Bill!

Click here for additional photos of the ARA Water Rally

Click here for a news release on the Rally



Auburn University Water Resources Center
ALFA Agricultural Services and Research Building
961 S Donahue Drive
Auburn, AL 36840