How to Adopt A Stream 

The five-step stream adoption process outlined here is used as a model for stream stewardship programs across the country. By following these steps, you and your school, community group, or organization will be well on your way to becoming Streamkeepers.

1. Investigate your watershed

Collect and study all the information you can possibly find about your stream of interest and its watershed, including history, geology, demography, land use, fauna (animal life) and flora (plant life). Visit your:

• Local conservation districts, community groups, and knowledgeable fisher people and long-term residents
• City and county land-use planning departments 
• City and county Surface Water Management departments
• City and county Stormwater and Wastewater Divisions 
• State departments of Fish and Wildlife, Ecology, Environmental Quality, Natural Resources
• Federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture
• Public or School Library

Ask these groups for watershed maps, watershed management plans, aerial photographs, fish and/or wildlife inventories, and any other data or information.

2. Organize a Streamkeeping Group

Find others in your local area who are interested in working to protect and enhance the condition of your stream and watershed. In establishing your group, try to find diversified interests, like business people, teachers, neighbors, scout groups, classmates, politicians, etc. To make your group “Official,” give your group a name, like “Friends of North Creek” or the “Little Bear Creek Alliance” or the “Swamp Creek Streamkeepers.”

3. Identify Short and Long-Term Goals

Next, your group will establish short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals describe what you would like to accomplish over the next 6 months to 1 year:


• Conduct a Watershed Inventory (Gather information on watershed)
• Develop and start a stream monitoring program to collect physical, chemical, and biological data on our stream.
• Stencil storm drains with “Dump No Waste, Drains to Stream” throughout watershed
• Create an educational flyer to inform streamside landowners about stream do’s and don’ts
• Create and place stream identification signs
• Conduct a community stream clean-up

Long-term goals describe what you would like to accomplish over 10-20 years.


• Maintain fish and wildlife populations
• Protect remaining stream and wetland habitat
• Restore and enhance degraded stream and wetland sites
• Lobby for changes in land-use laws to afford more protection to streams and wetlands

4. Develop an Action Plan

Starting with your short -term goals, work out an action plan for each goal. This action plan usually answers the questions Who, What (the goal), Where, When, How, How much, Resources available and deadlines. Try to delegate responsibilities evenly to all members of the group. Give them tasks and have them report their findings at the next meeting.

5. Become a Streamkeeper

Put your plan into action; carry out all the actions that you and your group want to do in order to achieve your short- and long-term goals. As a Streamkeeper, you become responsible for your adopted stream. You and your group will watch over the stream, monitor the health of the stream and surrounding watershed, and adjust your action plan according to your streams changing needs.