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Environmental Education


Application for Adoption | Helpful Hints | Manual and 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.
  • Need some help finding a site? The Adopt-a-Stream Coordinator has a list of previously adopted sites where groups have disbanded or are for other reasons are no longer active. The Adopt-a-Stream Coordinator can also refer you to your local Soil and Water Conservation District which is familiar with streams in your area and may know of sites in need of some help.
  • 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.

What do I do if my group is no longer active?

Please let me know if your group is no longer active. There are a couple of options for what you can do with your signs.

  1. Send your signs back to me so that they can be refurbished and used by a new group.
  2. 2. Let Sheila Barnett (804) 786-1815 know where your sign is located so that I can advertise your location as being up for adoption. You can peel the letters off of your sign. I will send you new letters to put on the sign saying "Up for Adoption."

How can I get more people to help with stream cleanups?

Bonnie Phillips manages the Stewardship Virginia program. When you indicate on your Register an Event Form that the cleanup is open to the public, Bonnie puts your event 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. 

If you see a need on the waterway you maintain, and you wish to conduct a special stewardship project, register your event with Stewardship Virginia. Your event will be publicized to a wide audience of potential volunteers. Check out the Stewardship Virginia website to see examples of previous projects. Stewardship Virginia is a Governor's Initiative and you can request certificates that have been signed by the Governor to give to your volunteers. Adopt-a-Stream is also part of Stewardship Virginia so you can always request certificates from me for your volunteers when you conduct litter cleanups.

News about stewardship and environmental education

Because getting reports is so 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.

If you are interested in other stewardship activities and environmental education in Virginia, then you may be interested in the Virginia Naturally newsletter. The Virginia Naturally newsletter goes out approximately every other month. Click here if you would like to be added to the Virginia Naturally newsletter database and fill out the short survey. If you would like to know more about Virginia Naturally, visit the homepage.


The Adopt-a-Stream coordinator will be
out of the office
August 7 - 21.

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