Yesterday was World Water Day, a day when the United Nations hopes we will “prepare for how we manage water in the future.” At DC Appleseed we have been working to improve the quality of the District’s water management—particularly the quality of the Anacostia River—for more than fifteen years. In 1999, we released a report that provided a blueprint for a strong stormwater management system, because stormwater runoff has long been a major cause of pollution in the Anacostia. In 2004 we issued a report on lead in the District’s drinking water that led to major reforms in the way the District manages environmental issues in general. And In 2011, we called for a “New Day for the Anacostia,” because we recognize that, as the UN says, water is urbanization.
Thanks in part to our previous work, the D.C. government has made great strides to address the pollution in the Anacostia River. Following recommendations in our 2011 report, we have supported the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) in developing a stormwater retention credit program that will incentivize District residents and developers to further reduce the stormwater runoff that continues to harm the Anacostia River. We were also instrumental in convincing the DC Council to provide resources and adopt a firm deadline for DDOE to complete a detailed plan to remedy the legacy toxic waste that lies trapped in the sediment at the bottom of the River. We are encouraged to see that DDOE is taking this obligation seriously.
But for far too long, rather than serving as a destination for recreation in the District, the Anacostia River has been a symbol of division. Some of our partners in the Anacostia clean-up effort think we can have a swimmable Anacostia River within ten years. And we believe that to take full advantage of the improved water quality we must work to create a model urban riverfront on the Anacostia. To that end, the latest stage of our project involves working with the Federal City Council to create a vision for how to best utilize the National Park Service land along the river in a way that will benefit the local community. In other words, we want to make the waters of the Anacostia River a bridge across the city.