Adopt-A-Stream: Explore and Protect Our Living Waters

What is the Adopt-A-Stream Program?

Adopt-A-Stream empowers community members to protect local streams and rivers through water quality monitoring. Volunteers are assigned sites and teams, given equipment, data sheets and protocols, and sent out to gather information on streamside habitat and macroinvertebrate populations.

Twice a year (in May and October), teams visit their adopted sites and collect data, including physical information (such as streambank erosion and surrounding land use). They collect and identify macroinvertebrates (commonly known as “bugs”) that live in the streambed and surrounding vegetation. Different bugs need specific conditions to survive and reproduce. Some are very pollution sensitive while others can tolerate highly polluted water. A stream’s health can be determined by the number and types of bugs that live in it. The data are used by CRWC, municipalities, and the State of Michigan to assess the health of its streams and to make decisions regarding their protection and restoration.

Citizen involvement in water quality monitoring activities has resulted in positive change across the nation, the state, and right here in the Clinton River watershed. For example, water quality data collected by volunteers for the Clinton River Coldwater Conservation Project has been used to select locations for trout habitat restoration, and students in our Stream Leaders program have helped identify and resolve soil erosion problems.

Why Do We Need the Adopt-A-Stream Program?

Assessing the health of the creeks and rivers in the Clinton River watershed is a pretty big task. The land that drains into the Clinton covers 760 square miles and includes over 1,000 miles of streams in addition to the 80-mile-long main branch. We live in the most populous watershed in Michigan—all 1.4 million of us— and we’re still growing! As our population grows, the potential for complex water quality issues in our watershed also increases.

The Clinton exhibits many characteristics of an urban watershed. When it rains, water running off of our yards and paved surfaces (roads, sidewalks, rooftops and parking lots) enters our waterways, carrying with it dirt, fertilizers, pesticides, oils, metals and other pollutants. The sheer volume of water entering the river during storm events causes significant erosion and sediment problems.

In order to protect our own health, recreation opportunities and the overall health of the watershed, we need to understand the impacts stormwater and the pollutants it carries have on our waterways. As highlighted in our cover story, municipalities, county agencies and nonprofit conservation groups are hard at work developing and implementing plans that will help maintain and improve the health our waterways.

We can’t do it alone. Government agencies don’t have the staff or funds to continuously monitor each body of water. That’s where you can help…by getting involved as an Adopt-A-Stream volunteer.

Learn How to Get Involved »