Stream Clean Up Is a Great Community Project

healthy creek after stream clean up

Stream clean up can feel incredibly rewarding to a community. Volunteers and others who learn about the clean up through the media will see and appreciate the sheer volume of junk that you're likely to find in the creek itself and also along its banks, especially the first time you organize a  clean up event or campaign.

The beauty of these projects is that if they are done on an annual or semi-annual basis, there will be a tendency for less and less trash to be collected.

Partly that's because with the first event, you may encounters years worth of trash. But your first annual clean-up day also creates an important statement to the community. 

People get the idea that someone cares about the river, lake, or stream. Maybe they will reconsider throwing dirty diapers, snack wrappers, and paper plates into or next to the creek.

The benefits of working toward clean water go well beyond a vague do-gooder feeling. Because clean water is the law of the land in the U.S., and has been since 1972, your community is obligated to do some degree of cleaning streams of any size before sending them on downstream.

If there's a bottle of insecticide, for instance, that's thrown in the storm sewer inlet and winds up in your creek, there's some serious pollution that your community may have to pay to clean up before the stream can empty into a larger body of water.



The specifics vary from situation to situation, but you can bet that someone somewhere is paying for neutralizing the effects of the most environmentally offensive trash.

Besides, a clean stream is just plain nice to look at. Below, we give you a form so you can give an overview of your stream clean up and how you made it a success, or what you learned that would make you do it differently next time. Stories about clean ups of rivers or lakes also are welcome and relevant.

If we accept your story (and we will, if you write something that others can understand), you will have a stand-along web page that you can use in publicizing future clean ups or other activities.

Please note that previously published stories about the clean up of the Mithi and Ganga Rivers in India have been deleted because the same material was popping up elsewhere on the internet. We won't tolerate that behavior from our visitors.


Six Tips for a Better Stream Clean-Up

1. Prepare people for the day. Explain to your volunteers that they will need boots or hip waders if they will, and be frank about the dangers and inconveniences. Amazing as it may seem, a few people will wear flip-flops if you do not explain proper footwear and dress.  Ask people to bring their own work gloves and have a few extras on hand. Generally you will want to make your event continue whether rain or shine; weather is just too unpredictable. Of course lightning, hurricanes, or a few other situations would be exceptions.

2. Have water, appropriate refreshments, sunscreen, and a first aid kit available.  Know where there are restrooms. Post information about all of this near your registration table.

3. If you know the area to be a haven for poison ivy or some other poisonous plant, be sure to point it out to participants.

4. Remember to document your effort with photos and video. If there is large rubbish in the stream, grab the camera, and certainly at the end of the day show the quantity. Post it on Facebook and Twitter.

5. Mind your manners and make sure everyone is thanked; notice who's preparing to leave and acknowledge their effort.

6. Remember that you will need to have each volunteer sign a waiver of legal liability. Individuals and small non-profits certainly do not want to have to defend a lawsuit if someone is cut or exposed to chemicals.  If you do not have ready access to a form already and cannot afford an attorney, look online for a suitable form, which will be better than nothing.

7. If you think your participants would be interested, tie your efforts to watershed planning or broader community revitalization efforts. This element tends to work nicely in areas where you have some millennials or highly educated folks among your volunteers.


Want to Tell Us About an Outstanding River Clean Up?

Can you tell us about a stream or river clean up event or campaign? Tell us where it is, why it's successful or where it struggles, and what you think would be the take-away advice that this example contributes.


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