DC’s Reliance on the Potomac River

The Potomac River runs immediately adjacent to DC, supplying 78% of the city’s water, and serving almost 550,000 people with essential running water1. Public water suppliers treat the river’s raw water and distribute it to homes, businesses, and critical government facilities throughout the district. Beyond the city, the Potomac River provides clean water to more than 5.5 million people within the larger DC metro area2. However, the quality of the Potomac River has degraded over the years, with pollution and runoff turning the water source hazardous. This pollution has become so severe that in many areas of the Potomac, it is illegal to swim in the river due to the multitude of hazards present. For instance, billions of gallons of raw diluted sewage legally enter the Potomac River annually through Combined Sewage Overflows3. As climate change continues to exacerbate these conditions, residents may face critical water shortages and the undermining of their water quality. This, inherently, will lead to health complications and decreased well-being for millions.

However, solutions exist to preserve the Potomac River and promote clean water vitality. Considering that plastic pollution is one of the largest threats to the river, organizing trash clean-ups and reducing plastic consumption is crucial to maintaining water quality. Additionally, forested land yields the cleanest waters to the river, as water is filtered by the local vegetation. By protecting large portions of forests along the Potomac, water conditions grow increasingly safer and cleaner.

1. https://www.potomacriver.org/focus-areas/water-resources-and-drinking-water/cooperative-water-supply-operations-on-the-potomac/long-term-planning/water-supply-resilience/

2. https://www.potomacriver.org/potomac-basin-facts/

3. https://potomac.org/blog/2016/7/21/5-legal-ways-pollute-potomac

Image by David Nunuk