Want to Swim in the Potomac? Army Corps to Study the Possibility

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could soon study how to legalize swimming in the rivers around the nation’s capital—a scenario that would have seemed impossible in the not-too-distant past.

2 minute read

December 27, 2022, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

The Yards Park, in Washington, D.C.

The Anacostia River is in need of some TLC, and some swimmers! | Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

According to an article by Jacob Fenston, “someday in the not-too-distant future, going for a swim in the District’s rivers could be a real option on a hot summer day.”

“In the latest step toward making swimming in the city possible, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will conduct a feasibility study, identifying areas on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers where it’s clean enough and safe enough to swim,” according to Fenston. The study is contingent on President Joe Biden signing the Congress-approved 2022 Water Resources Defense Act.

The possibility of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers being clean enough for swimming first made the Planetizen newsfeed in 2018, when the grades for water quality, granted by local advocates, first crossed into passing territory for both rivers. At the time, the Potomac River’s grade was a B, and the Anacostia a D-. In 2020, the most recent grade for the Potomac River, the grade had slipped slightly to a B-. Unfortunately, the grade for the Anacostia had slipped back into fail territory.  So, the efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers will be a welcome addition to the clean up effort.

The Potomac Riverkeepers launched a campaign earlier this year, documented in another article by Fenston, to legalize swimming in the Potomac River for the first time in 50 years.

Local advocates note that people are already going in the water around D.C., but formal legalization would help clear the way for recreational locations devoted to swimming.

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