adoptastream“Hey.  What are you doing down there?”

I looked up from my stream bed to find an older man staring down at me from the bridge above.  “I’m testing the stream water, sir?”  He looked at me with concern.  “Is it safe to drink?  Cause I drink that water when it runs into the lake.  And I also like to fish.  The fish ain’t dying, are they?”  I smiled up at him and said, “No sir. Everything’s fine.  I’m a volunteer with South Carolina Adopt-A-Stream.  I just come out every month to test the water to make sure it stays safe for all of us to drink and enjoy.”  And with that short answer he seemed satisfied so continued his walk down the country road.  I went back to my work.

So, what is Adopt-A-Stream?  Well, it’s a program that began in 2017 by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to have volunteers help monitor the streams and creeks around the State.  Patterned after the successful work done in Georgia, DHEC realized that by training volunteers in stream monitoring, it could serve as a valuable resource to the overall health of the watershed.  In our community, it is the Broad watershed that is responsible for providing water for the county’s drinking supply, fishing and boating that we all enjoy.  Knowing our water is safe and clean is something we all can appreciate.  The Adopt-A-Stream volunteers help make this happen.

The training process is quite interesting and the DHEC instructors make sure you are well trained and certified in the process.  Training happens in three core areas of water monitoring; Chemical/Physical, Bacterial and Macro Invertebrate. In addition to classroom work there is field training in the streams to make sure all volunteers have hands-on experience. Working with chemical and pH test kits can seem daunting, but the instructors give you plenty of training and support. The testing is done to measure air temperature, water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity and bacteria in the water.  I never realized how important bugs were to stream health.  Now I refer to these bugs as macro invertebrate.  Hmmm…..   When training is completed volunteers are assigned a local stream to “adopt”.  Streams are then tested on a monthly basis and the data is entered into a statewide database for review.  The data collected by volunteers is invaluable in determining which streams may need a helping hand to keep our water clean and healthy.

I must admit it’s been a fun change for me to become an Adopt-A-Stream volunteer.  Trained in school counseling, I spent over 30 years working as a College Academic and Career Advisor.  It was my job to build the careers of college students.  And yet my passion has always been environmental issues and a love of the natural world.  I still smile each time I pull my kayak out for a paddle on Lake Robinson.  I still look around with deep appreciation for the Dupont Forest as I hike another trail with my GHNA hiking group.  And so I took the step to hang up my school counselor hat and switch it for a tee shirt and Wellingtons.  Today I am a citizen scientist for the Lake Robinson community and yes sir, you can fish in these waters.

The Adopt-A-Stream needs more volunteers.  We have a big state and a lot of area to cover.  If you’re interested in adopting a stream and improving water quality, I urge you to contact the Water Ecology Center at Clemson University.  They need your help.  The number is

864-503-5728.  See you in the streams!

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