Skip to Content
Environmental Education


Application for adoption | Helpful hints | Manual, forms | Event registration | Cleanup data report | Contact

It's up to each of us to keep Virginia's rivers, streams, lakes and bays clean. That's the idea behind DCR's Adopt-a-Stream Program (AAS). The waterway cleanups supported by this  anti-litter campaign provide a chance for local businesses, civic groups, watershed associations, churches, schools, environmental concerns and scouts to work together or separately to do their part.

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.

Waterway adoption

You need to get your hands a little dirty to truly learn about nature. Waterway cleanups provide that prospect. A few hours collecting litter from a local shoreline establishes a link between citizens, community waterways and their watersheds. You see firsthand how your cleanup work improves a waterway's quality and appearance. You feel good about your work, become a caretaker of a local waterway and assume a watershed-based stewardship ethic.

By signing up for DCR's voluntary, do-it-yourself Adopt-a-Stream program, your group agrees to at least one, preferably two, cleanups per year for at least two years. The minimum length of shoreline a group can adopt is one-quarter mile. A team of two typically covers a mile of lightly littered shoreline in an hour or two. Many groups opt for two cleanups a year, one in the spring and another in the fall. DCR helps by providing trash bags, gloves, safety vests, and instructional and promotional documents. DCR also gives each group custom signage featuring the adopted waterway and organization.

Helpful hints, getting started

  • Consider accessibility, safety, location and necessity when choosing a waterway cleanup site.
  • Pick a waterway that is meaningful to you, your group and your community. Have several sites in mind.
  • Don't bite off more than you can chew. Make sure your crew can handle the stretch of waterway you want to adopt.
  • Be flexible.
  • Remember, the segment must be at least one-quarter mile.
  • Have fun!

Steps for stream adoption

  1. To run your cleanup, you first need to read the Adopt-a-Stream manual . Also, please read about Adopt-a-Stream conditions .
  2. Next, complete and send in the Application for Local Program Designation and Agreement. It's available in MS Word format (Word) and Portable Document Format .
  3. Once you've picked a cleanup event date, complete and fill in the online event registration form or fill in and fax, scan or mail a hardcopy version of the form .
  4. Next, make copies of the liability release forms and sign-up sheets . You'll need these on the day of the cleanup.
  5. At the cleanup, have all participants sign the liability release and fill in the sign-up sheet. And make sure your volunteers are familiar with the safety guidelines . Once completed, the forms must be sent to DCR within a week of the cleanup's completion.
  6. After the cleanup, it's time to report the data. You may use this convenient online stream cleanup data form or fill in and fax, scan or email a out a hardcopy version of the form .

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
Attn: Adopt-a-Stream Coordinator
600 E. Main St., 24th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: 804-786-1815
Fax: 804-786-1798

Adopt-a-Stream PowerPoint Presentation:

Click here to view a presentation that describes the Adopt-a-Stream Program .

Water Quality Monitoring:

You might also be interested in water quality monitoring. Follow this link to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's monitoring information or click here to visit a site about the Izaak Walton League's Save Our Streams program.