Student Video Contest

Video Topic Fact Sheet: Rivers are Drinking Water

City of Gresham scientist tests local streams for pollutants. Pollutants include heavy metals, by-products from cars, and pesticides from lawns. Our public servants and scientists monitor our rivers and streams to keep our communities healthy.
Pollution to our rivers and streams can impact the health of our community’s drinking water. Learn more about how you can take action for clean water.


Do you know where your community’s drinking water comes from? Depending on where you live, it might come from a river, a lake, or an underground aquifer. Some local rivers such as the Clackamas, the Mollala, the Trask, the Tualatin, and the Willamette may supply your drinking water. Make a video about how pollution can get into the rivers or groundwater that provide our drinking water.

Here are some ideas and resources to help you choose a theme for your video:

  • We all belong to a watershed, an area of land that drains to a waterbody, directly or indirectly. And so we all live downstream from somewhere and what we do anywhere affects the river downstream. Explain this concept in creative ways using video. 
  • Find out where your community gets its drinking water and make a video about it. Use your address to look up your water provider, then check their website or contact them to find out where they get the water that’s piped to your home or school.
  • Everyday actions like washing cars, maintaining a lawn, and walking dogs can pollute rivers. Make a video about minimizing water pollution in your daily life. 
  • Communities use storm drain markers to help people understand that stormwater goes straight into the river. Many communities have maps showing the underground network of stormwater pipes. Explain where stormwater goes from where it enters the storm drains in your community.
  • What does “The River Starts Here” mean to you? Make a video that answers this question. Remember to include a call to action.
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Video topic fact sheet: Leave No Trace

A group of eight people holding up SOLVE trash bags filled with materials found in the wilderness on Sauvie Island.
Learn more about how you can #leavenotrace when you spend time in the wilderness.


How can we enjoy our land and water while keeping it safe and beautiful for all to use? Here are some facts and ideas to help you choose a theme for your video.

Visiting the wilderness? Be sure to:

  • Clean your shoe treads before you go to avoid introducing weed seeds to wild areas.
  • Stay on designated trails to limit impacts to wildlife and always control your pet.
  • Pack water and food in durable, reusable containers to avoid having trash (leave as much packaging at home as you can). 
  • Bring a grocery bag to pick up pieces of litter you may find and pick up after your dog. 
  • Put your fruit peels and snack wrappers back in your pack (bring a small bag to hold them).
  • If you smoke, carry a metal container (like a mint tin) for your butts.

 Staying overnight? Plan ahead:

  • Bring a bag from home for trash and recycling and take it back with you. 
  • Plan for bathroom needs. Bring a trowel to dig an 8” cathole to bury your poop at least 50’ from water bodies. Bring a ziploc labeled for each camper and put your used toilet paper, cotton wipes, and feminine products in it to throw away later. Some people go even more hard core and use smooth rocks or leaves as toilet paper and bring an extra sock to capture drips!
  • Bring biodegradable soap. Filter food particles out of your dishwashing water and bury them or use the designated dish wash station at campgrounds.
  • Rinse your mouth and toothbrush into the fire pit or spread into soil. Always keep human waste, soap, and wash water out of streams. 
  • Bring a quick dry camp towel for dishes or for rinsing off your body. 
  • Pick up microtrash before you leave! Animals often try to eat small bits of plastic and other packaging. 
  • Find information on the National Park Service website.
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Video Topic Factsheet: Active Transportation

There are many active transportation alternatives to cars! Read more about how active transportation can have a positive impact on our rivers and streams.


Car emissions, engines, metal bodies, brake pads, and tires all shed pollutants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, formaldehyde, chromium, copper, zinc, arsenic, mercury, oils, and grease. Streets and bridges shed pollution from cars into our streams by way of storm drains. Outdoor stacks of used tires also leach pollution into rainwater. Some pollutants attach to soil and move into streams as soil is washed away. 

Metals used for cars parts, like copper, nickel, and zinc, are toxic to fish. Fish are more sensitive to metals than people. For example, people can safely swim in water with copper, but it inhibits a salmon’s sense of smell, making it less likely to detect a warning pheromone from another salmon. 

Here are some facts and ideas to help you choose a theme for your video:

  • Pollution from cars can be deadly to fish. In Seattle, salmon that returned to a restored stream turned upside down and began gasping for air after swimming in stormwater that drained from a road and mixed with the stream water. Read about it and watch a video here.
  • A good way to reduce car-related water pollution is to drive less. Use alternative transportation whenever you can (walking, biking, scootering, skateboarding, rollerblading, carpooling, or mass transit), and drive when you need to. Explore how using the best form of transportation for the trip can reduce water pollution. Active transportation is good for everyone!
  • Reduce car-related pollution by making maintenance choices with clean water in mind. When you replace your car’s brake pads, ask for low/no copper parts. If your car leaks, use a drip pan and clean up oil on pavement with kitty litter and a broom. Never dump auto fluids on the ground or into streets or storm drains.
  • Wash your car at a car wash, not in your driveway where the wash water can make its way to storm drains. Detergents (even those labeled biodegradable) and grease from dirty cars is dangerous to streams. Dirty water from commercial car washes goes to wastewater treatment plants where pollutants are filtered out. If you do wash your car at home, make sure wash water soaks into the ground and doesn’t run into the street. Watch this short video that shows one way to safely wash cars at home.
  • Choices you make today will affect the world of your future! Think about ways young people can protect rivers and streams by reducing their current and future dependence on cars.

Find more helpful information at these links

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Video Topic Factsheet: Climate Change

An action you can take to stop climate change is growing food at home. Learn more tips below on how to grow vegetables in houses or apartments!


Climate change also impacts our rivers and streams. Make a video about how our changing climate is changing rivers and affecting the wildlife in and around them.

Here are some ideas and resources to help you choose a theme for your video:

  • Our changing climate impacts rivers in many ways. Make a video about an impact that’s particularly important to you.
  • The Pacific Northwest’s salmon population is threatened by warming rivers and oceans because they need cold water to survive. Make a video about the impact of climate change on our native fish.
  • Climate change is affecting the Columbia River, which forms much of the border between Oregon and Washington. Make a video about the Columbia or another river in your local community.
  • Learn about specific ways climate is changing Oregon and Washington and make a video about it. Remember to relate what you learned to clean water and include a call to action.
  • Warmer temperatures threaten water quality in our rivers and streams by supporting growth of harmful algae. Learn about algal blooms, these algae are responsible for closing Vancouver Lake and parts of the Willamette River for recreation each year.
  • Climate change is making the urban heat island effect worse, and one of the impacts of urban heat is increased water pollution. Make a video about heat-influenced water pollution and actions people can take to reduce it. Learn about Portland’s Green/Ecoroofs and visit ecoroofs to make a video about their benefits

What actions can I and my family take to help stop climate change?

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Student Video Contest – How do I apply?

How do I enter?

  1. Choose a topic for your video from the list at
  2. Read the topic information carefully! Videos that contain inaccurate information will be disqualified.
  3. Make a 25 or 55 second video about your chosen topic. Be creative, give it a great title, and make sure it includes a clear call to action.
  4. Upload your video to YouTube with a minimum resolution of 720p. You can keep it unlisted, but be sure it’s viewable to anyone with the link.
  5. Complete the application form no later than May 20, 2021. You’ll need a working email address and your parent or guardian’s contact information if you’re under 18. 
  6. Watch your email inbox for contest information and instructions! Finalists will be notified in June, and if you’re selected you’ll be asked to submit your entry as an MP4 and given instructions about campaigning for the People’s Choice Award.

Follow Us

Follow The River Starts Here on social media for contest updates and tips. Find us at:

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Student Video Contest – What are the details?

Eligible Participants:

  • Are in 6th-12th grade as of fall 2020.
  • Are enrolled in a public, private, charter, or home school in Multnomah, Clackamas, or Washington County (Washington State students: find your contest at

Video Entries:

  • Must be exactly 55 or 25 seconds long.
  • Must focus on one of the subjects listed at
  • Must be factually accurate.
  • Must be viewable on YouTube with a minimum resolution of 720p.
  • Must be submitted via completed application form.


  • Entries that meet the video entry criteria will be selected as finalists.
  • To remain eligible, finalists must submit signed waivers and photo releases and upload an MP4 file of their entry by the deadline.

Winners and Prizes:

  • $500 prizes will be awarded to each of four categories:
    • 1. Clean Water Actions
    • 2. Community Storytelling
    • 3. BIPOC Filmmaker
    • 4. People’s Choice
  • Winning videos will be edited for branding and used in the RCCRS summer 2021 water health campaign. Use may include distribution via social media and other channels. 

Dates and Deadlines:

  • May 20, 2021: applications due
  • June 4, 2021: finalists notified
  • June 11, 2021: deadline for finalists to submit MP4 files
  • June 14-21, 2021: social media campaigning for People’s Choice award open
  • July 1, 2021: winners notified and press release distributed
  • Summer 2021: winning videos used in RCCRS water health campaign
  • Fall 2021: winning videos screened during Portland EcoFilm Festival

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Portland Metro Area Youth Win Student Video Contest for Clean Rivers

The River Starts Here launched the first annual Student Video Contest in 2020 and received an overwhelming response from participants and viewers who learned about our connection with local waterways. In this first year, local youth environmentalists passionate about telling their story responded to the call and helped create videos about how we each have a role in protecting rivers and streams. 

On June 6, 36 middle and high school student finalists from throughout the Portland Metro area shared videos to encourage clean water behaviors like reducing pesticide use, practicing Leave No Trace principles in natural areas and traveling by transit, bike and foot to reduce pollution. Expert judges from the film industry, governments and river organizations voted to select the winners for the best 55-second and 25-second videos. From June 6-19, students rallied friends and family to vote for them to win the People’s Choice Award for the most liked, commented, viewed and shared video. Over 4,000 community members watched student videos, which were viewed over 11,000 times. Viewers submitted over 1,800 likes and added hundreds of comments. Commenters shared their enthusiasm for these creative videos. 

“I always forget that everyday activities can be harmful to my community whether I intended it to or not, I will definitely remember the car wash part!” – Margo Flanagan

“This is the greatest public service announcement for keeping our waters clean I have ever seen.” – Robert Pirtle

The River Starts Here is proud to announce the contest winners.


Honorable Mentions:

The River Starts Here is excited to celebrate and honor these youth creators. Each winner will receive $500, be individually recognized by government leaders and have the opportunity to screen their video at the Portland EcoFilm Festival. Leaders at the River Starts Here are already looking forward to next year. 

“We had an incredible outpouring of youth who are passionate about protecting the health of our local rivers and streams. We saw so much creativity – from handmade animation, to funny movie spoofs, to impassioned calls for change. We cannot wait to continue supporting youth environmentalists in next year’s Student Video Contest” – The River Starts Here partner, Christa Britton

Partners from the River Starts Here coalition met to celebrate the Student Video Contest and finalize the winners.

The River Starts Here is a coalition of local governments working together to share how our everyday actions impact the health of local rivers and streams. 

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Student Video Contest – Deadline Extended

Attention 6th through 12th grade teachers, students, and homeschoolers. Our student video contest for the River Starts Here summer 2020 campaign is live! We have extended the deadline, videos are now due May 31!

Learn more and apply here!

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