Charleston's waters now have one plucky keeper. After working singlehandedly for months to take on the role as a pollution watchdog, Cyrus Buffum has been named to the job by a national alliance.

The Waterkeeper Alliance is a network of more than 120 independent groups across the country and the world who patrol in boats looking for polluters, dumpers and anybody else who's dirtying the rivers and streams, then reports them to authorities.

Conservationists say they fill a gap in protecting water quality — eyes, ears and a nose out on the water day and night.

Buffum's Charleston Waterkeeper would join the Waccamaw Riverkeeper in Horry County and affiliated groups on the Catawba and Savannah rivers. They run as nonprofit foundations supported by contributions.

Buffum, 24, has a physics degree from the College of Charleston, and he also teaches sailing. He must now ratchet up community involvement, recruit research and legal expertise, raise an estimated $100,000 to start up and operate the first year, and buy a boat.

He spent his first day as Waterkeeper on Tuesday out on the Edisto River, described the feeling as incredible, a weight off his shoulders and the beginning of the real work.

"A lot more to-do lists, a lot more goals," he said.

S.C. Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, a division of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the chief coastal regulator, welcomed Buffum's stewardship. Dan Burger, communications director, said the agency looked forward to working with him.