Clean Water Corner: Social Distancing Amid COVID-19 Does Not Mean the End of Clean Water Activities

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People doing chemical monitoring

Typically, at this point in the spring, IWLA Clean Water staff would have already hosted many events to train new stream monitoring volunteers and even begun scheduling similar events for the fall. In fact, by March 15, we had 23 trainings confirmed in six states thanks to the interest of volunteers and the preparation and planning of our staff.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak threw us a curveball. Now, the trainings page on the League’s web site is littered with “postponed” in red under each training. Many monitors across the nation have been sequestered due to statewide stay-at-home orders, and nonessential gatherings of any size are at least discouraged, and often illegal.

This is certainly putting a damper not only on trainings, but on stream monitoring as well. However, do not fret. There is still work to be done, and we can all do things that will benefit water quality and the Clean Water Challenge!

Anyone can participate in the following activities (just make sure you follow your state’s COVID-19 guidance):

  • Watch Clean Water Webinar Series: IWLA Clean Water Program staff are hosting a weekly Clean Water Webinar series so everyone can learn about clean water and monitoring topics while sequestered at home. View past webinars on the IWLA YouTube and sign up for upcoming webinars at

  • Share a Stream Selfie: One of the simplest ways to get involved would be to join the nationwide Stream Selfie project. All you need is a smartphone or a camera and a computer. If you pass a stream while walking in your neighborhood, snap a photo, submit it to, and answer a few questions about that stream. This inventory of information will help IWLA pinpoint new monitoring sites, identify places with a high volume of trash to clean up, and gather new stories about why streams are important to you.

  • Clean Up Trash: If you can go on a walk, bring gloves and a trash bag with you. Unfortunately, trash litters almost our entire planet – but picking it up is an activity you can do solo. Make sure to share your efforts with us on social media, and afterwards do not forget to wash your hands thoroughly!

  • Join Salt Watch: While typically a winter activity, Salt Watch is a great way to quickly and individually test how road salt has impacted your waterways (and yes, road salt stays in the ground for years, so you will still find unsafe results in the summertime!). Request a Salt Watch kit, and instructions for how to submit your data will be included. Supplies are limited. If we run out of kits for this year and you still want to participate, you can order your own bottle of chloride test strips.

  • Monitor Streams Using Simple Chemical Tests: Unlike Save Our Streams macroinvertebrate monitoring, chemical monitoring requires no training and can be done individually! All the step-by- step instructions to perform the simple chemical monitoring tests are printed directly on the kits, so you don’t need any prior monitoring experience or advanced science background to participate. Learn more about chemical monitoring.

  • Try Creek Critters: The Izaak Walton League has very recently partnered with the Audubon Naturalist Society to utilize their Creek Critters Smartphone App, which is similar to our SOS macroinvertebrate monitoring but simpler and requires no training. The app is free, and it walks you through macroinvertebrate monitoring and identification using a step-by-step identification key. Learn more.

  • Send Us Your Stories: Why did you start monitoring? Why do you care about clean water? What is the coolest thing you have found during your monitoring experiences? Have you had any monitoring victories? These are all things we want to know (and receiving pictures is a bonus). Submit your stories to or at our Facebook or Instagram account so we can share them and cheer you on!

Although we miss training and interacting with Save Our Streams volunteers face-to-face, we are excited to connect with you all remotely! If you have any questions, plans, or want to share stories, the Clean Water staff are ready to hear them and answer at Once training and full-fledged monitoring resumes, we will be ready to go, stronger than ever!

Main image: Chemical monitoring is an activity that can be done while practicing social distancing, demonstrated by these SOS trainees in Nebraska.