Celebrating Our River. Igniting Our Future.

Water is life. It sustains us, nourishes us, and drives our economy. By the time the Cuyahoga River caught fire for the last time on June 22, 1969, it had no visible life. Fifty years later the river is alive again, but clean water faces more threats than ever in Cleveland and around the world. 

When we look back at the progress since 1969, we see determined local action supported by strong federal policy. Today’s major threats to the health of the river and the entire Great Lakes are different than when the river caught on fire, but no less severe. Industrial pollution has been largely overtaken by algal blooms, climate change, plastic pollution, invasive species, and other threats. The blame can no longer be placed on a handful of manufacturers. In many ways, the problem is us and what we consume, how we farm, and how we build cities. But the overarching recipe for progress is the same – local action supported by strong policy. Cuyahoga50 is about learning from the past to inform how to tackle today’s clean water challenges.


Cuyahoga50 will bring people together throughout 2019 to celebrate clean water and ignite future action through storytelling, discussion, and debate. There will be more than 100 community events, exhibits, performances, and conferences taking place in Greater Cleveland throughout 2019, all focused on water. The pinnacle of the year took place from June 19-23, 2019, as Cleveland marked the 50th anniversary with the largest series of public clean water events in the country.

In 2009, Mayor Frank Jackson launched Sustainable Cleveland 2019, a 10-year initiative to design and develop a “green city on a blue lake” by 2019, the 50th anniversary of the infamous fire. In that vein, Cuyahoga50 is also about galvanizing action among organizations, neighborhoods, and people so we all have a clean water story to tell in 2019.  Without clean water, in tandem with clean air and clean energy, we cannot have the resilient economy, vibrant neighborhoods, and equitable outcomes we need. Join us throughout 2019 as we celebrate progress, honor the people who made it happen, and set the stage for future action.