In an “Adopt-a-Stream” program, groups register with the “environmental protection” office of their state or local government to clean-up and keep clean a section of a stream or aquifer. In addition to clean-up efforts, volunteers may be asked to monitor water quality and/or pollution sources. Responsibilities vary slightly from one municipality to the next.

Keys to Success

Adopt-a-Stream programs are most successful in areas of the country where people have strong ties to surrounding ecosystems. With respect to ACS local sections, these ties may be stronger in rural areas and/or near universities with strong analytical/environmental chemistry programs. Because groups are asked to monitor and clean up relatively large geographical areas as part of the program, several volunteers may be needed to successfully implement an Adopt-a-Stream program effectively. ACS Student Affiliates have shown great aptitude for these programs. Depending on the scope of work to be done, it may be necessary to identify corporate sponsors to help with supplies and/or equipment.

Steps to Identify or Create an Adopt-a-Stream Program

  • Conduct an Internet search to see what kinds of programs are currently available in your area; decide if working with/through one of these programs would be desirable.
  • Identify preferred geographical area.
  • Identify resources that can be provided – supplies (trash bags, testing materials), tools (rakes, shovels, bow saws and other gardening equipment) and/or time (a few hours or a few days).
  • Identify commitment desired – once a week, once a month, once a year, special event, etc.
  • Identify day of week/time preference (weekends, afternoons or evenings).
  • Find a volunteer coordinator to facilitate the project.
  • Create an implementation plan (include goals & measurements; benefits of the program - volunteers, and sponsoring organization; & specific volunteer commitments/roles).
  • Recruit volunteers.
  • Schedule and hold an orientation meeting for volunteers - allow time for volunteers to get to know each other. Volunteers should become familiar with their responsibilities, the ecosystem involved, and the overall scope of the plan.
  • Promote your efforts to local media.
  • Implement activities.
  • Evaluate activities. (What was successful? What can be improved? Were goals met?)
  • Celebrate what has been accomplished - with the volunteer group, corporate sponsors, your local section and the public.

Benefits from Involvement

By participating in an Adopt-a-Stream program, you are betting your local environment. You will also be helping to change the perceptions of people who only connect chemistry with pollution. Participation will also increase the visibility of our science, any sponsors you may have and your local section. Students and teachers involved in the program will grow in their understanding of chemistry and its many contributions to our environment. Sponsors can realize tax-savings through their in-kind and monetary donations, and volunteers will gain from their sense of accomplishment, teamwork and enjoyment.