The Clinton River Watershed Council’s Adopt-a-Stream program is a volunteer-based program that empowers community members to protect local streams and rivers by monitoring their health. Volunteers are trained, teamed up, assigned stream sites, given equipment, data sheets and a collection protocol, and then sent out to gather information on streamside habitats, physical characteristics and benthic macroinvertebrate populations. Twice a year – May and October – teams of trained volunteers visit their adoption site and collect data. After the initial 3 hour training session each volunteer dedicates approximately 3-4 hours of their time per year.
The benthic macroinvertebrates (bugs) collected by volunteers serve as the main indicator of stream health. Different bugs need specific conditions to survive and reproduce. Some are very pollution sensitive while others can tolerate highly polluted water. Therefore, a stream’s health can be determined by the number and types of these bugs that live in it. The data is 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.
For volunteers who are particularly interested in learning more about the benthic macroinvertebrates, CRWC offers the opportunity to become “Bug ID certified” through an additional FREE bug identification course.
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.
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. Don’t wait to get involved!