Helping Out: Adopt-A-Stream

Water pollution affects every aspect of the environment, but you can do something about it.

You’ve seen the signs while driving: Adopt a Highway. Litter Control. Next 2 Miles. What you might not know is that there’s a similar program designed for Oahu’s streams.

photo courtesy of the City Department of Environmental Services, storm quality branch

“We’re looking for volunteers who are able to make a long-term commitment and are interested in increasing environmental stewardship,” says Iwalani Sato of the city Department of Environmental Services, Storm Quality Branch. A stream adoption encompasses not only cleaning your aquatic adoptee four times a year, but also monitoring the waterways and storm drains and handing out brochures about pollution. When volunteers sign up, they must pledge to adopt their stream for two years. Some groups have taken this far beyond that first commitment; Malama o Manoa has been involved for eight years, and the University of Hawaii’s Law Society for 12 years.

“We focus on the idea of the ahupuaa, a holistic approach to handling our watershed from the mountains to the sea,” Sato says. “Imagine if we implemented this watershed concept; we would be cleaning from the top of the mountains to the sea, resulting in less pollution and less harmful runoff into our oceans.”

With a handful of major watersheds and more than 670 miles of storm drains, the program can use as much help as it can get. “Honolulu’s residents have a lot of awareness,” Sato says about water pollution, “but now they need to do something with it.”

Adopt a stream at or call 692-5208.

Streams aren’t the only pieces of the Island that people can adopt:

Help maintain a city block. Duties include removing graffiti and educating residents about pollution. You’ll even get to do some graffiti of your own by stenciling storm drains.

This program wants to place two miles of asphalt with a loving family. The Department of Transportation will give you orange vests, trash bags (and pickup) and a sign announcing that you are the adopter. Obviously, this pales in comparison to the real reward: Litter-free roads. Call the DOT at 831-6712 for more information.