The Potomac Conservancy released its fifth annual State of the Nation’s River report, scoring the rivers’ health at a barely passing “D” grade, a downgrade from the group’s previous D+. The report points to reasons for the low grade, growing population, land use practices as the primary culprit for a polluted and degraded Potomac River. The report focuses on the two worlds of the Potomac, the rural farms and mountains to the west and the urban cityscape in the south.
These “two worlds” pose different challenges to the Nation’s River. According to the report, upstream, forestry and farming practices play a big role in influencing the river’s health; downstream, sprawling building projects and sewage treatment challenges loom large.
The 2011 "Potomac Agenda," provides recommendations for state and federal government agencies to collaborate on more cohesive regulations and practices that will protect our water supply. The Agenda calls for specific actions that, for example, promotes regulations and funding to combat urban stormwater problems, preserve our forests, and better manage our farmlands in a sustainable fashion.
Click here for the Potomac Agenda.
- Same River, Different Challenges. Map shows the rural (green) landscapes in the western part of the Potomac watershed – roughly west of the Interstate 81 corridor -- pose different challenges to the river than more populated urban landscapes (red) downstream.
- Population Growth in the Potomac Region, 2000-2010 (chart)
- Buried Streams in Montgomery County, Maryland. Rapid development has caused many small headwater streams to become “buried” -- paved over or rechanneled into culverts and storm drains. Stream burial can dramatically degrade stream health and water quality. Source: Lookingbill, T. et al. (2009) Altered Ecological Flows
Blur Boundaries in Urbanizing Watersheds. Ecology and Society 14(2): 10.
- Impervious Cover in Loudoun County, Virginia. Today, analysts
estimate that more than one-fifth of the county’s 161 subwatersheds have
more than 10% impervious cover and, in the eastern half of the county,
most are 25% covered or more. Nearly three-quarters of the county’s streams
are under “severe stress” or “stress,” according to aquatic life surveys. Source:
Loudoun County Department of Building and Development.
Hedrick Belin, President of Potomac Conservancy, acknowledge the rural-urban divide. “Despite the differences,“ he says, “both worlds are joined by a shared desire for a healthy, safe river. After all, the Potomac provides us with more than just places to play, it is the source of most of the area’s drinking water. It’s up to all of us to keep this river healthy.”
Click here to see what you can do to help.