“Rivers are vital for all life on earth, rivers are our lifelines. We cannot live without water, we are water. All living beings are part of a watershed, so we will all benefit from drinkable rivers,” says Li An Phoa, whose initiative Drinkable Rivers is one of AIWW’s Amsterdam Agreements. Last Friday Li An organised an online event for the network Mayors for a Drinkable Meuse that AIWW technically supported, with over 50 participants joining; mayors from the cities in the Meuse river basin, national and regional river authorities, water associations and other river initiatives.

Mayors united

Mayors for Drinkable Rivers is a network of mayors around the world who work towards drinkable rivers in their villages, cities, regions and watersheds. Together with the mayors of Charleville-Mézières (FR), Namur (BE) and Cuijk (NL), Li An initiated the ‘Mayors for a Drinkable Meuse’ network in 2019. Li An: “Bridging the gap between people and corporates, authorities and institutions, mayors play an important role. If they can transfer the vision and mission of Drinkable Rivers it can really become a part of people’s lives.”

The mayors involved agree. “Cities along the Meuse like Charleville-Mézières have turned their backs on the Meuse for too long. We are now engaged in a process of reconciliation with our river. In this context, the network of Mayors for a drinkable Meuse seems essential to us to share our ambitions and the means to achieve them,” says Boris Ravignon (Charleville-Mézières, France).

“The Meuse is in the DNA of any citizen of Namur who stands alongside the river. Therefore, it’s essential to share experiences and to coordinate the pursuance of our efforts within the network Mayors for a drinkable Meuse,” adds Mayor Maxime Prévot (Namur, Belgium).

“The quality of our river water holds up a mirror to us. No matter how big the problem is, everyone can contribute to a drinkable river, and we are the first in line to undertake action,” concludes mayor Wim Hillenaar (Cuijk, the Netherlands).


Last Friday 35 mayors from France, Belgium and the Netherlands gathered for the annual meeting of the Mayors for a Drinkable Meuse network. Another 25 experts representing various water authorities joined the mayors in the exciting and fruitful online event. Moderator Li An Phoa, founder of Drinkable Rivers: “We agreed meeting once a year, with every meeting hosted by a Meuse mayor. Next year will be in Namur in Belgium. This river basin network will focus on collaboration and action. This group will also be invited to join the global network of ‘Mayors for Drinkable Rivers’ that has a focus on network and learning.”

Coming from different countries and cultures, it might be challenging to get everyones ducks in a row. Li An: “By getting to know each other and to annually meet and stay connected we stay on the same page. This is not a project of a few years, this is building a culture together and acknowledging we are a river family, where water is like our bloodline. To give insights and inspire we additionally have a documentary film ‘A long walk for drinkable rivers’ and in 2021 a book on Drinkable Rivers. This will be published in Dutch first, adding other languages soon after hopefully.”

Call to action AIWW

Being a member of AIWW you can contribute too. For instance by inviting mayors in your network to join the global ‘Mayors for Drinkable Rivers’ and participate in their first webinar Friday 26 March on ‘Clean water and ecosystem restoration’. If you are interested in theDrinkable Rivers citizen science project and wish to become a hub to monitor the water quality in your network or community, you can let Li An know via data@drinkablerivers.org.


The documentary A long walk for Drinkable Rivers (EN)/ Drinkbare Maas (NL) / Meuse à boire (FR) has just been launched, please watch the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyO0O84DPVs&feature=emb_title(Dutch and French). Please watch Li An’s TedX ‘Care for drinkable rivers’ here https://drinkablerivers.org/our-story/ Drinkable Rivers is regularly covered in the media around the world. A selection can be found here: https://drinkablerivers.org/media/

About Li An Phoa

Li An Phoa is the founder of Drinkable Rivers that raises awareness and mobilises people to act towards a world with drinkable rivers. The foundation runs a successful citizen science initiative that monitors the water quality of rivers around the world and initiated the Mayors for Drinkable Rivers network. Li An is trained in whole system ecology, philosophy and business and works as a systems thinker & actor. She walked more than seventeen thousand kilometers on five continents studying and teaching about watersheds. Her 1000km walk along the Meuse river has been featured in a full-length documentary. www.DrinkableRivers.org