Students for Clean Water Student Video Contest

2021 Contest Winners on #theRiverStartsHere YouTube

Application Details

Contest entries will consist of 25- or 55-second videos about water pollution. All Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington County Oregon high school students are invited to participate. Public, private, charter, and home school students are eligible. Clark County, WA middle to high school students apply here.


Application deadline: April 24, 2022

Finalists notified: May 9, 2022

Deadline for finalists to submit MP4 files: May 16, 2021

Promote your video for People’s Choice award: May 20-26, 2022

Winners notified and press release distributed: June 1, 2022

Application Form


A total of five $500 first prizes will be awarded in two theme content areas*:

  1. Our Drinking Water / Don’t Dump That!
  2. Everyday Actions Add Up

*Two of the five awards will recognize the following:

A. BIPOC videographer -Acknowledging the important voices of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color community

B. People’s Choice -for the video receiving the most community views, likes, and comments on #theRiverStartsHere YouTube channel (see timeline)

Content Background

You already know that water is vital to our existence. But did you know that we all live in a watershed that drains to a creek, stream, lake, river, and eventually, the ocean? We are all connected by water. Rivers are great life forces that sustain our iconic pacific northwest salmon, trout, and sturgeon, support wildlife and provide people a place to boat, float, splash, fish, and paddle.  They are used for shipping goods and some are even used as a source of drinking water.

As cities and towns grew, they built storm sewer systems to move stormwater off buildings, houses and roads as quickly as possible. Today, water that used to soak into the ground flows across hard surfaces and down storm drains along streets, altering our natural waterways and increasing pollution. Storm drains usually lead directly to the nearest stream, carrying oil, grease, dirt, metals, pesticides, litter and bits of plastic pick up along the way. This is bad news for the water bodies that we recreate on. It’s also really bad for the fish and wildlife that need clean, cold water to survive. Imagine how you would feel if someone started dumping dirty water into your bathtub while you were using it!

These days, cities are doing more and more to help by adding vegetated stormwater features like rain gardens that help let water soak into the ground and trap dirt and certain other pollutants  before it drains to waterways, but this still isn’t enough. Everyone has to pitch in and help out, which is where you come in –   creating a video about one of the topics below can teach and inspire others!

  • Imagine your video is a way to teach others about the actions they can take to protect water.
  • Use your creativity to grab viewers’ attention, keep them watching to the end and leave them with an “aha” moment.
  • Consider using action, comedy and/or emotion to help get your point across.  
  • Select a call to action and give your video a cool movie name.

Here’s an example commercial from The River Starts Here campaign to get your creative juices flowing. By the way, the drain in this commercial was protected and cleaned after this commercial was filmed, so please don’t put things in drains in your own film or try to remove a grate because they are heavy and dangerous.


Am I eligible to enter the contest?

The contest is open to 9th-12th grade students in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties through this application form. Clark County students can also apply through a different application process.

Can my video be about anything related to clean water?

There are two main content themes. There is suggested focus areas within each theme along with #hashtags.  Don't forget to include your call to action and #hashtag at the end of your video.

What prizes could I win?

Up to five $500 prizes will be awarded in the two content theme areas: Our Drinking Water / Don't Dump That! and Everyday Actions Add Up.  Two of the five awards will go to: BIPOC videographer, and the People’s Choice for the video that receives the most community views, likes, and comments on #theRiverStartsHere YouTube channel.  (See timeline).

How long should my video be?

Video contest entries can be either 25 or 55 seconds long to allow them to be used in The River Starts Here social media campaigns.  All entries become property of The River Starts Here campaign and may be post production edited with RSH logo and branding.  

Can I submit more than one video to the contest?

Yes, we’ll accept two entries per student. Please complete a separate application form for each entry.

Can I use stock footage or images?

Please limit the use of copy right free stock footage, if you can. We want to see your creativity! Your entry should primarily consist of original footage, filmed or animated by you or your team. Review YouTube’s policies on what is acceptable as Fair Use.

What about music?

If you use music in your video, be sure to include documentation of the source and legal rights in your application form. Learn about YouTube’s copyright policies and find out how to get free music.  Note, if you use Tik Tok to edit your video, you must select "commercial sounds" for music or use YouTube's copyright free music after uploading a music free video from Tik Tok.

Do you have any tips?


  • Review the provided content theme information carefully! If your video contains inaccurate information, it will be automatically disqualified. Email if you have questions.
  • Be sure to include a clear call to action and include a #hashtag at the end.
  • Give your video a descriptive and attention-grabbing title. Think about what it would be called if it was showing in a theater.
  • Clean your lens. Film in landscape (camera is showing the wide view). Hold your phone with two hands while filming.
  • Select your video recording quality settings to high quality (1080 or 720p minimum) , 24 to 30 frames per second, use 60 fps if you plan to slow down the video.
  • Render your edited video to the highest quality as well. Finally, under your YouTube profile, go to settings and select the highest upload quality.
  • When using a free video editor, select one that does not watermark and will export to YouTube quality. Search YouTube for advice on best free mobile phone editors for IOS or Android.More info:


What is the new BIPOC filmmaker category?

The River Starts Here campaign is committed to amplifying the voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) to promote and engage in an ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion dialogue that will lead to meaningful change and equitable outcomes for all community members.

Furthermore, we acknowledge that many causes of environmental degradation have disproportionately impacted BIPOC communities and that Portland-Vancouver Metro region is built on the traditional lands of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla and many other tribes.  As such, we have created a student BIPOC filmmaker category as part of this effort.

Can my video be bilingual?

Students are welcome to feature their cultural native language as voice or subtitle and to use English as the alternate.