Motivation, Retention, and Program Recommendations of Save our Streams Volunteers

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Virginia Water Resources Research Center

A survey of the Save Our Streams (SOS) volunteers in Virginia documented their socioeconomic characteristics, their reasons for volunteering, their level of participation in SOS monitoring and other volunteering, their assessment of the validity and reliability of the SOS water quality monitoring procedures, and suggestions for program improvement. Common reasons for SOS involvement were to protect the environment, learning, teaching, be of service, and nature enjoyment. The most common length of participation in the SOS program was one to three years. Most volunteers felt that the SOS’s recommended procedures provided accurate measures of stream health, and most felt they did the monitoring procedures quite or very well. However, about one-third of all SOS volunteers monitored a stream less than once a year; about 20% did so the recommended four times a year. Volunteers generally rated program services provided by SOS as quite high. Program changes most favored included standardized training procedures across all of Virginia, and lobbying government agencies to use volunteer data to protect streams. A second tier of preferred services included special guest speakers about water and environmental quality, an annual meeting for all volunteer water monitoring groups in Virginia, paid full-time SOS regional coordinators, and random field spot-checks of the SOS volunteers’ work to assure quality data. Opposed changes were an easier certification test and removing the choice from volunteers on what streams they monitor. Reasons for dropping out of the program included too many other obligations and not enough time. Differences in reasons for participation and suggestions for program improvement are reported for Rookies, Fading Veterans, Active Veterans, and All-Stars among the SOS volunteers.