What Are We Working Toward?

Our goal is to make the Anacostia River swimmable and fishable as soon as possible.

The most important parameter for a swimmable Anacostia is fecal bacteria. High fecal bacteria levels indicate that the water contains many types of disease-causing viruses, bacteria, and protozoa that can be hazardous to human health.

Other important parameters for a swimmable Anacostia include water clarity (Secchi Disk Depth), chlorophyll (a) (which indicates the amount of algae), and trash. Even when fecal bacteria is low, if the water is very cloudy or filled with trash and algae, people will perceive the river as dirty for swimming.

Other parameters such as toxics (heavy metals, pesticides, other chemicals) are also very important, but we don't yet know the specific health risks of occasional exposure to the toxic sediment in the river. Removing that toxic sediment will also be necessary for the river to sustain healthy fish safe for human consumption.

From this perspective, we selected four parameters that are the most reliable and relevant indicators of the river's progress toward being fishable and swimmable: Fecal Bacteria, Water Clarity, Chlorophyll (a), and Dissolved Oxygen. The river's overall grade also accounts for Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, a holistic measure of the river's ability to support life. The graphic below explains the five parameters in greater detail:

water quality parameters


Click here to download a printable version of the 2011 State of the Anacostia River.

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