Work with Your Hands
Thank you for your interest in being a volunteer! Before you make a commitment to provide your service, you will want to know what kinds of opportunities are available in your community. When you make a pledge to provide volunteer service, the local Waterkeeper programs and Clear Choices Clean Water sponsor(s) in your area will be notified and contact you with information on the kinds of activities they might have available.
Our local Waterkeepers rely on you to help them to protect and restore our local waterways. Volunteers help with trash cleanups, monitor water quality, staff events, report pollution, assist in the office, help advocate on issues by writing letters and providing testimony, and much more. Here is a list volunteer programs with your local Waterkeepers:
- Blue Water Baltimore
- Gunpowder Riverkeeper
- Potomac Riverkeeper Network
- James River Association
- Arundel Rivers Federation
- Assateague Coastkeeper
- Patuxent Riverkeeper
- Anacostia Riverkeeper
- Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper
We may not have a Waterkeeper in your area, but if we do we will connect you right away. If we don’t, please consider other individual service opportunities like using the Water Reporter app to report pollution or adopting a storm drain in your neighborhood.
Many of our streams, creeks and rivers are regularly polluted with trash. Littering and illegal dumping often results in unwanted trash and debris in our waterways. One way can you serve the community is by taking part in or planning a stream clean-up, which entails picking up litter and debris along the length of a stream either by foot or by boat. When participating in a large organized event, the organizer usually provides trash disposal. This can be especially important when collecting some of the heavy items you might find such as tires and appliances. Easier trash to pick up might be everyday items like plastic containers and aluminum cans. Consider your level of fitness and the terrain when deciding what activities you are able to handle.
If you see someone throwing or dumping trash into a stream or drain, please contact your local environmental protection agencies, use our Water Reporter app to document the pollution, and/or contact your local Waterkeeper. Contact info can be found on our Report-a-Polluter page.
Tree or native plants planting days
Trees and native plants are important to the health of our waterways as they help reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality, reduce soil erosion, remove pollutants, provide habitat for wildlife like songbirds and pollinators, and help moderate temperature. When planted directly along stream banks and in floodways, trees play an even more critical part in helping filter pollutants, holding soil in place, and reducing some of the negative impacts of urban development.
Trees and native plantings, especially when planted in rain gardens, also help by capturing and storing rainfall and runoff and help the water infiltrate the soil, replenishing our groundwater supply and helping maintain water flow during dry times. Holding more water in place also decreases flooding and erosion downstream.
Sometimes native planting events are done as part of building a rain garden. Learn more about rain gardens here. You can also volunteer Blue Water Baltimore's native plant nursery and their community tree plantings.
Volunteers of all ages and abilities can participate in tree and native planting events. Please be sure to consider age and ability when offering to serve as most planting events involve physical activity. And remember, with your service, you’ll be making a difference in the community and for our water resources!
Stormwater runoff is the number one cause of stream impairment in urban areas, click here to learn more about how trees and native plants reduce stormwater runoff impacts.
Water Quality Monitoring
Several of our Waterkeeper programs have volunteers help with water quality monitoring of local waterways. Volunteers undergo training and follow rigorous sampling protocol, usually from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. Water quality data (e.g., bacteria levels and turbidity) is uploaded to maps and to the SwimGuide app. This is one way our Waterkeepers work to keep local waterways swimmable, fishable and drinkable.