Our Mission

Waterways: Better for the Environment, Better for Communities

The mission of the National Waterways Foundation is to develop the intellectual and factual arguments for an efficient, well-funded and secure inland waterways system.


The National Waterways Foundation facilitates research and learning for industry leaders and thinkers to address public policy issues related to America's inland waterways system.


Through peer-reviewed commissioned studies, the Foundation helps the public to understand how to maintain our waterways system, enhance its capabilities and promote its value in the years ahead. 


Fuel-Efficient and Reliable

America’s inland waterways directly connect 28 states and benefit all 50 states by moving freight the entire country relies upon, all at the lowest cost and with the least fuel consumption among surface transportation modes.


Barges: Most Fuel Efficient


Barges move cargo 675 ton-miles per gallon of fuel. Ton-miles per gallon are the measure of how far each ton of cargo is carried by a single gallon of fuel.


  • A rail car is 30% less efficient
    than a barge
  • A truck is 78% less efficient
    than a barge

Lowest Carbon Footprint – Least Environmental Impact

Moving cargo on the inland waterways is the best bet for reducing the carbon footprint because barges generate far fewer emissions than trucks or rail.  Barge transport also results in fewer spills, which are more than double by truck and nearly three times by rail.

Inland Waterways Move America

Our inland waterways system moves goods more safely and efficiently than rail or highway. It is a key component of the transportation network and supply chain and is essential to our country’s economic strength.

502 Million Tons of Freight Worth More Than $134 Billion

Our inland waterways move more than half a billion tons (2019), saving $7-9 billion in transportation costs to the nation compared to truck or rail.

The Safest Mode for Communities 

From reducing air pollution to lowering the number of transportation-related injuries and fatalities, inland waterways transport helps to protect people
and their environment.