University of South Carolina

Riverkeepers Mark Bruce and Alan Mehrzad
Riverkeepers Mark Bruce, left, and Alan Mehrzad protect the Santee and Congaree rivers, respectively.

Taking the plunge: Alumni fight for healthy state waterways as riverkeepers

Two South Carolina alumni are quickly becoming environmental champions.

"I plan to take a community approach to protecting the rivers."

In December, Mark Bruce and Alan Mehrzad were named riverkeepers. Each is a full-time advocate for a body of water--Bruce works to protect the water quality of the Santee River, and Mehrzad watches over the Congaree.

Water was his first love

"I grew up on Lake Marion, which is a reservoir of the Santee River, and I’ve been on the water all my life," says Bruce, a 1994 computer science graduate who loves to waterski and fish.

After working in a number of industries for about 15 years, Bruce returned home to start his own information technology firm. Back on the shores of Lake Marion, he was shocked by a serious decline in the lake’s water quality.

"The number one reason I got involved is because water quality had deteriorated to such a high degree," he says. "The conservation group American Rivers named the Santee one of the country’s most endangered rivers in a report four years ago, and I wanted to help change that."

Natural and man-made challenges

Bruce went through a rigorous application process to be come the Santee riverkeeper.

"I sent a 23-page application to the Waterkeeper Alliance, which is the national sanctioning body for riverkeepers," he says. "They wanted me to outline what I thought to be the issues in the watershed and how I would address those issues."

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About the riverkeepers

  • Mark Bruce, 1994 computer science graduate; Santee Riverkeeper
  • Alan Mehrzad, 2005 marine science graduate; completing master's degree in earth and environmental resource management; Congaree Riverkeeper

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