Potomac River Health Report Downgraded

For the first time in a decade, the Potomac Conservancy has downgraded its rating of the health of the Potomac River.

The Potomac River Report Card found that, while the river has been on a steady path of recovery since 2011, that recovery has now plateaued, with some backsliding attributed largely to rapid development around the river. Deforestation and development sprawl around the river have limited the environment’s natural ability to absorb and filter rainwater, and polluted stormwater runoff into the river has continued to increase. While the pollution from agricultural properties in the river has continued to fall, urban runoff has continued to climb.

This was also exacerbated by higher-than-average precipitation, with record-setting rainfall in 2018.

The report points particularly to the Trump administration’s rollbacks of longstanding environmental protections, such as the Waters of the United States rule under the Clean Water Act of 1972. The rule requires a federal permit before discharging pollutants into certain waterways; an early-2020 change in the definition of what waterways were covered reduced the area where it has effect.

“It’s a far cry from when we graded the river an abysmal D just ten years ago,” the report notes, “but stalled progress could signal a dangerous reversal in course for the river’s health if threats aren’t addressed.”

Learn more at PotomacReportCard.org.

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