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How You Can Help Keep Our Rivers Healthy

Photo shows people in a creek picking up trash.
You can help keep our rivers, streams, and watersheds healthy. There are many ways to get involved, from simply picking up after your dog to volunteering for a cleanup event.
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Every Day Ways to Keep Rivers Clean

  • Drains are just for rain: Storm drains are just for stormwater! Don’t dump anything in storm drains because it might end up in our rivers or streams. You can also Adopt a Storm drain to help keep them clear and functioning.
  • Trees are our friends: Trees and plants are important parts of Portland’s infrastructure because they help soak up rain and filter pollutants that might otherwise end up in our rivers and streams. Learn more about the many benefits of planting trees or find a planting opportunity. You may also qualify for a one-time credit on your bill for planting a tree!
  • Fix motor oil leaks. Are you topping off your motor oil before your regularly scheduled maintenance? You’ve got a leak. That motor oil is a pollutant. Maintain vehicles and see our next tip.
  • Bike, walk, or ride: Cars and other motor vehicles are major pollution sources. Motor oil and other substances wash from the streets into waterways, where they can harm wildlife, fish, and ecosystems. When you cut down vehicle use, you protect water quality as well as reduce air and climate pollution.
  • Pick up after the dog: Dog poop contains harmful organisms like E. coli, Leptospira, and roundworms. These organisms can harm other animals, wildlife, and even children. Bacteria from poop can wash into rivers and streams when it rains, so be sure to pick it up wherever it lands and put it in the trash.
  • Only flush the 3 Ps: Protect your home’s pipes and our sewer system and only flush the 3 Ps: Pee, poo, and (toilet) paper. Learn what you can (and shouldn’t) flush.
  • Report pollution: Someone washing paint down a storm drain, a strange looking discharge coming from a pipe on the river, or sewage coming out of a maintenance access hole are just a few examples of the kinds of issues Environmental Services investigates. To report pollution, call our spill hotline at 503-823-7180.
  • Adopt a Green Street: It’s easy to become a Green Street Steward and volunteer to help maintain a green street in your neighborhood in between City maintenance visits.

More Opportunities to Get Involved

Many organizations around Portland work to keep our rivers, streams, and watersheds healthy. If you have time to help, consider reaching out to one of these partners for cleaner watersheds and learning about volunteer opportunities and other ways to help work for clean rivers.

Volunteer with Portland Parks: Portland Parks & Recreation offers a variety of fun and rewarding volunteer opportunities, including park cleanups at locations across the city.

Create a Backyard Habitat: Portland Audubon and Columbia Land Trust have teamed up to help urban gardeners create natural backyard habitats for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife.

Control Invasive Plants: Weeds or invasive plants can take over ecosystems, causing many problems including decreased biodiversity, reduced stormwater filtration, and erosion.

Help Remove Unnecessary Pavement: Depave works to transform concrete and asphalt into engaging urban green spaces in neighborhoods across the city.

Join a Cleanup, Restoration, or Planting Event: Solve Oregon holds cleanup events around the state to remove litter and trash and help protect our watersheds.

Help Plant Trees: Friends of Trees holds planting events in neighborhoods and natural areas. Sign up to volunteers or to get a tree for your property.

Get Involved in Your Neighborhood

Many neighborhood associations offer volunteer opportunities for cleanup, plantings, or other activities to create more green space and promote watershed health. Not sure what neighborhood you live in? Check the map and find your local organization.

Watershed Councils

Many of our watersheds have a council organization. These community groups offer events, volunteer opportunities, and work to educate Portlanders about our watersheds. Find the council for your watershed and get involved!

Columbia Slough Watershed Council

Johnson Creek Watershed Council

Tryon Creek Watershed Council

Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation Districts

These organizations offer workshops on native plants, soil health, and planting for pollinators, among many other topics. They provide resources and education for youth and adults so that we can all work together for healthier watersheds. Check out the East Multnomah or West Multnomah county organizations to learn more.