River Assessment Field Team (RAFT)

A lot remains unknown about the water quality in our local streams since our agency partners are limited in the number of sites they can sample. We can help!

The RAFT Program

The River Assessment Field Teams (RAFTs) are individuals, family members, or small groups of friends, colleagues, or neighbors that are willing to donate time to help strategically assess local water quality. Data collected through this program will:

  • Help provide a more complete picture of our water quality by teasing out pollution hot spots and measuring trends over time
  • Help our Alliance direct educational and cost-share resources to areas with bad water quality
  • Help agencies like the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and county health departments fill in knowledge gaps and address concerns

Citizen science is a powerful tool to understand environmental conditions, complement the work of our agencies, and help make positive change!

Sampling Event Schedule

RAFT sampling events occur at least once a month on a Sunday from roughly 12:00pm-4:00pm. Each event will target one of three areas along the White River or its tributaries in Marion or Hamilton Counties.

  • Southern sampling area – Decatur, Perry, Wayne, & Center Townships of Marion County
  • Central sampling area – Washington & Pike Townships of Marion County; Clay & Delaware Townships of Hamilton County
  • Northern sampling area – Noblesville & White River Townships of Hamilton County

As a RAFT volunteer, you do not need to participate every month – you can choose the event(s) that is most convenient to you. You will need to register in advance for each month. Everyone will start at a common location and return to that same location at the end to return their samples and data.

This fall, help us evaluate the quality of local streams’ habitat while also picking up litter in the process! At this event, we will be grading the environment in and around the stream through a Visual Assessment and by conducting a Citizens Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (CQHEI). Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) is providing materials to clean-up the stream as we assess it.

To register for a monthly RAFT sampling event or habitat evaluation event, click the button below or Monthly Sampling Events in the sidebar.

Monthly Sampling Registration

Volunteering and Training

RAFT Volunteers are citizen scientists trained to conduct water quality sampling following a specific protocol. With some time and dedication, anyone 18 years of age and older with moderate physical fitness can become a RAFT volunteer. Before becoming a RAFT volunteer, you must first complete the online RAFT training program. This will provide an important foundation for understanding what’s involved in water sampling as well as the science behind the various measurements you will take in the field.

If you’re interested in becoming a RAFT volunteer, we’d love to have you. You can find out more about volunteering and the training program by following the button below.

Volunteering & Training

Corporate Sampling Events

Looking for a team building and a community service opportunity? Choose one that is educational, fun, and impactful! Join us at one of our quarterly corporate group events or choose a private, customizable event. When you participate in our RAFT corporate events, your team will learn about the state of Central Indiana waters, what, why, and how water quality is measured, and how the data that YOU collect is used! Each team will be accompanied by an experienced, knowledgeable RAFT team leader who will guide each team through the sampling process and can provide insight into the program.

Find out more about a RAFT Corporate Sampling Event by following the button below.

Corporate Events

Sampling Data

You might be wondering what’s happening with all the data that’s being collected from the monthly water sampling events. Well, once results from the samples are returned, the data is entered into a database. The team has been working hard to put it in a visual format for you to view – and it’s finally here! The data is now available for you to view on an interactive page. You can choose to view data from all the sites or filter the sites and choose those that interest you. Check it out – click the image below!

Support RAFT

Become a Water Supporter

Everyone has a role to play! You can help us ensure RAFT’s success and affordability by directing your donation to RAFT and becoming a Water Supporter. No donation is too small or too large to be a Water Supporter. Your donation as a Water Supporter can be publicly recognized or remain anonymous. All donations are tax-deductible and will be utilized specifically for the RAFT program and its related efforts.

Supporter Levels Donate

Thank you to our Supporters!

Watershed Supporter





River Supporter
In Honor of Marian & Don Purswell

Stream Supporter 



What kind of training or knowledge do I need to participate?

Before becoming a RAFT volunteer, it is required that you go through the RAFT Online Training Program (link coming soon). This will provide you the basic understanding of water quality and habitat evaluation techniques necessary to participate in the RAFT program.

What kind of equipment do I need?

White River Alliance will provide all equipment at the beginning of each sampling event. Just come to the event dressed for field work!

What should I wear?

Wear comfortable clothing that you are ok to get wet and/or dirty. Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are highly recommended. If you have your own waders or tall waterproof boots, please bring those with you. Waders will be provided to volunteers so bring a pair of socks.

What is the time commitment?

The sampling event will last approximately 3.5 hours, not including your travel time to get the kick-off location.

What are the physical requirements of participating?

All volunteers need to be able to walk on sloped and uneven ground to reach sampling locations. There are a variety of roles on each sampling team that can accommodate varying physical levels, there is the data recorder that can stay on the stream banks and then samplers that will need to wade into the water.

Can I bring my child with me?

All volunteers need to be 18 years old and must sign and submit a waiver to White River Alliance at the beginning of each sampling event. In some cases, teenage volunteers accompanied by their legal guardian may be pre-approved by White River Alliance staff to participate. The RAFT program is designed to meet a level of scientific rigor not appropriate for young children.

If I want to volunteer with a friend or spouse, can we stay together on the same team for the day?

Yes, you may request team members at the beginning of each sampling event as teams are being formed at the kick-off location. When registering for an event please let White River Alliance know who you would like on your team.

Do I need to sign a waiver?

Yes, all volunteers must sign and submit a waiver to White River Alliance at the beginning of each sampling event.

How do I know if our RAFT sampling has a measurable difference?

Alliance staff will be putting your data into the State’s Hoosier Riverwatch volunteer sampling program database. Your data will be checked for quality assurance and quality control and used to provide supplementary information for use in planning and prioritization of the State’s water assessment program and and other programs. You will be able to see the water quality results of your sampling in the Hoosier Riverwatch database as well as at our annual recap and celebration events.

What will neighbors or city/town officials think when they see RAFT volunteers in the streams?

Local municipalities are aware of this program and neighbors adjacent to the sampling sites have been informed of the effort. The RAFT program is a great opportunity to engage neighbors that live along the streams in water quality awareness and protection.

Are RAFT events rain or shine?

Yes, it is very important to collect water quality data during all weather conditions to get a complete picture of the water quality.  There are different sampling protocols for wet weather and high flow events that will keep all volunteers safe (but maybe not dry).

Are there any program 'perks' or benefits to me?

Beyond helping strategically assess local water quality and enjoying the outdoors, volunteers will be eligible for rewards based on the number of monthly sampling events you participate in. Rewards may include neat gear and/or gifts cards to local business.