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"Adoption" Helps Iowa Water Quality, One Stream at a Time

About 40 miles of streams have been formally adopted in Iowa, leaving hundreds of miles more in need of volunteers to help clean them up. (
About 40 miles of streams have been formally adopted in Iowa, leaving hundreds of miles more in need of volunteers to help clean them up. (
May 6, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - With the Iowa Legislature unable to pass a clean water funding plan, everyday Iowans are still taking steps to improve the water supply.

Metro Waste Authority in Des Moines is providing "adoption papers" so volunteer groups can take care of one or more local streams in need of sprucing up.

Sean Gannon, project coordinator and his team of co-workers from the planning and design firm RDG, took part of a recent weekend to clear a stream they adopted in Des Moines and says it's amazing what they cleared out.

"We found road signs. We found yards and yards of fencing," says Gannon. "We found a creepy plastic Santa. Fortunately, and weirdly, right off the bat we found a shopping cart, a perfectly usable shopping cart, which was fantastic."

He says they used the shopping cart to carry out even more junk. Teams that formally adopt a stream or creek not only learn how to care for it, but also have the opportunity to give it a name if it doesn't have one.

Gannon adds it was gratifying for his co-workers to improve not only how their stream looks, but the quality of the water flowing through it.

"It's stuff that was never intended to be just kind of dropped into a stream that becomes drinking water at some point," says Gannon. "We felt a great sense of accomplishment to stand around this giant pickup truck full of garbage that would otherwise still be there."

Some have been returning to their stream annually, as is the case with a group from the engineering firm Barker Lemar. They adopted the stream running along their workplace in West Des Moines three years ago.

Human Resources Coordinator Jenny Barker says while large, bulky items have been gone for a while, their stream still needed an annual cleaning this year.

"We did have quite a bit of cardboard," says Barker. "We've worked with local business in that area just to see if that was cardboard that was, like, flying out of people's dumpsters or what the situation was, because it was a considerable amount."

There are currently hundreds of miles of streams in Iowa still in need of adoption.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA