A Year of Progress for the Potomac River

Read Potomac Conservancy’s 2018-2019 Annual Report


Potomac Conservancy President, Hedrick Belin


The Potomac River has made a dramatic comeback since President Lyndon Johnson declared it a national disgrace fifty years ago.  Back then, parents told children not to touch the toxic, tainted river. Algae blooms created expansive dead zones. Native fish populations had dropped precipitously.  

Today, bald eagles abound. Other once-threatened species like osprey, beavers, and American shad have rebounded.     

This past spring, the region embraced one of the most charismatic local species – Atlantic bottlenose dolphins – by selecting “Mac” and “Chessie” (short for Potomac and Chesapeake) in our Name Potomac Dolphins contest. Each summer, Mac, Chessie, and their friends return to the nurturing waters of the lower Potomac to raise their young.  

The steadily improving water quality that sustains wildlife is important to our health, too. Over 5 million people depend on the Potomac for their drinking water. 

With your support and our strategic, science-based approach, Potomac Conservancy and our partners have accelerated the pace of our river’s recovery.    

This past year our advocates campaigned for clean water initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels. Volunteers removed more than 23,166 pounds of trash. And private landowners protected high-priority lands and streams with conservation easements. 

Still, we have more work to do. Rapid deforestation and threats to federal water protections could derail progress.   

New challenges are emerging.  2018 marked the rainiest year on record for the DC region. This summer, continued flooding and ever-higher tides damaged homes and roads. 

These increasingly intense storms carry a toxic stew of fertilizers, street oils, and plastic into local streams, rivers, and our drinking water source. This runoff is now the fastest growing source of pollution in the Potomac.  

We are tackling these challenges with innovative, nature-based solutions and our community of clean water supporters that has quickly swelled to over 31,000.  

With your continued involvement, we will achieve our shared goal of a swimmable and fishable Potomac River.  

Thank you for being a part of this local movement to save our river. With your help, we will make the Potomac a healthy and thriving river once again. 

- Hedrick Belin, President 


Join our local movement for clean water and help protect the progress we’ve made so far. Donate today!



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