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Adopt-a-StreamAdopt A Stream Logo

It's up to each of us to keep Virginia's rivers, streams, lakes and tributaries clean. That's the idea behind DCR's Adopt-a-Stream Program (AAS). The waterway cleanups supported by this anti-litter campaign provides an opportunity for businesses, civic groups, churches, homeowner’s associations, schools, scouts, families and individuals to work together or as individuals to get involved with helping Virginia’s environment.
The statewide program aims to reduce litter while advancing citizen stewardship and understanding of the commonwealth's precious waterways. Adopt-a-Stream promotes education, public outreach, citizen involvement, partnership and community capacity-building through Virginia's diverse constituencies.

Adopt-a-Stream Newsletter

Program DetailsVolunteer crew placing trash into orange trash bags

  • Adopting a section of waterway is free to the adopters.
  • Adopting organizations must adopt a stream for a period of two years but can continue with their adopted stretch for as long as they desire to continue their participation in the program.
  • Adopting organizations agree to conduct at least one clean up per year.
  • Designated Representative will Read Adopt-Stream-Manual, conditions, and conduct a safety meeting before the cleanups.
  • After the first reported cleanup, adopters will receive an Adopt-A-Stream sign, which states the adopting group or individual’s name and waterway name to place at the waterway’s access point.
  • Call the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) at 800-367-7623 before posting an Adopt-a-Stream sign in a VDOT right-of-way. VDOT may need to issue a permit. Calling VDOT also enables its residencies to contact responsible parties when a sign must be moved.
  • Volunteers are eligible to receive certificates of appreciation signed by the governor for each participant in your clean ups.
  • Designated Representatives must submit a cleanup notification form to let the Adopt-a-Stream coordinator know when a cleanup is taking place.  This form is also used to request any needed supplies such as bags, gloves and vests.  After the cleanup, the representative must submit a cleanup report that gives information about the cleanup.  Receiving this report is imperative because the Adopt-a-Stream program is grant-funded and receiving the funds requires that the Adopt-a-Stream coordinator submit quarterly reports to the EPA.
  • When a group or individual is no longer able to continue with the cleanups, the Adopt-a-Stream coordinator requests that she be notified.  The Adopt-a-Stream coordinator also requests that the sign(s) be sent back to DCR so that they can be refurbished.
  • Sometimes local governments or other organizations need cleanup details too for their reports. The Adopt-a-Stream coordinator will be glad to send the raw data that is collected to any individual who requests it. 

How to get started

Pick the right location for your group

  • Consider accessibility, safety and location when choosing a waterway cleanup site.
  • Need some help finding a site? The Adopt-a-Stream Coordinator has a list of previously adopted sites where groups have disbanded or are no longer active.
  • Make sure your crew can access the stretch of waterway you want to adopt. If you plan to conduct cleanups on land make sure that it is either public land or you have permission from the owners to be on their land.  Some groups adopt a stretch and use canoes and kayaks to more easily access the waterways and collect the litter.
  • Have fun!

How to manage your clean-up event

  1. First complete the online event registration form at least two weeks before the date of your clean up event.
  2. Next, make copies of the liability release forms and sign-up sheets. You'll need these on the day of the cleanup.
  3. At the cleanup, have all of the participants sign the liability release forms and fill in the sign-up sheet. Make sure that your volunteers are familiar with the safety guidelines.
  4. The final step is to use this online form to report cleanup event data. Please try to report within a week of the event.

Getting Volunteers

When you register an event that is open to the public, your event will be listed on the Stewardship Virginia calendar which lets interested citizens know that a litter cleanup is taking place and they are welcome to join your group.

Adopt-a-Stream is part of Stewardship Virginia. It is a governor's initiative and makes you and your volunteer’s eligible to receive certificates signed by the governor to show his appreciation for volunteering.  When you register your event you can also request the certificates.


Reporting cleanups is very important! The Adopt-a-Stream coordinator will send the Adopt-a-Stream newsletter out quarterly to remind you to submit your data. A picture is worth a thousand words. If you submit your pictures, you might see them in the newsletter. If you have any short stories about Adopt-a-Stream that you would like to share, please submit them too.

Adopt-a-Stream Resources

Promoting Adopt-a-Stream and Water Education

Are you planning to host an outreach event?  If so, you may print the Adopt-a-Stream flyer for your booth to advertise the program. We can also send you watershed maps, Raindrops activity books, What is a Watershed? and Keeping Your Lawn Green.

2015 Adopt-a-Stream Report: Congratulations, Volunteers!

Adopt-a-Stream volunteers make a collective impact on Virginia's waterways. DCR sends EPA quarterly reports on work done by AAS stewards. Here are 2015's results:

  • 57 Adopt-a-Stream groups reported 75 stream cleanups. This shows that some groups conducted multiple cleanups last year.
  • 1,112 adults and 343 youngsters, a total of 1,455, took part in cleanups.
  • A total of 4,374 hours were worked by AAS volunteers. Adults worked 3,550 hours; young people worked 824 hours.
  • 1,326 bags of litter were collected along 238 miles of streams and shorelines. Volunteers reported collecting other unbagged trash so they in fact collected much more debris than is reflected in this report. AAS volunteers did impressive work in 2015 and deserve our thanks.

Adopt-a-Stream Contact