Help Us Celebrate The 50th Anniversary
of the Clean Water Act

In 1972, seven years after President Johnson called the Potomac River a “national disgrace,” an enlightened Congress passed the Clean Water Act on a bipartisan vote to override President Nixon’s veto and make clean water a national priority.

Today, fifty years later, due to the commitment we made as a nation in 1972, our rivers, lakes and coastal waters are much cleaner and healthier places to swim, fish and simply enjoy nature.  Although there undeniably is work still to be done, Potomac Riverkeeper Network is proud to be at the vanguard of protecting and defending the Potomac and Shenandoah watersheds. Read more about our success stories here.

Photo credit: Library of Congress

A key goal of our Swimmable Potomac campaign during this year of celebration is to secure a commitment from  Mayor Bowser and the DC Council to prioritize lifting the long-standing ban on swimming in DC waters and to begin to identify safe places for everyone in DC to swim in the future.

To promote this and to demonstrate the importance of a clean river and access to it for all area residents, we will be hosting a variety of events all year long – stream cleanups, Ports of Call with our research vessel, the Sea Dog, RiverPalooza and RioPalooza paddles, an open water swim at National Harbor, a major kick-off event on March 22 and others throughout our watershed.

Design by Twig Murray

the Wins!

Past, Present & Future of Our Rivers

Clean Water Act
Fact Sheets

In 1971, because of prevalent and persistent pollution, swimming was banned in DC waters. Now, however, mitigation and remediation have improved water quality so that, at many locations, swimming is safe, as demonstrated by our community science Water Quality Monitoring program. 

As part of our celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, we are calling on Mayor Muriel Bowser to commit to lift the swimming ban and identify public access sites that will allow DC waters to be  accessible and enjoyed by all.  

“Old Arlington Beach – 1927” Copyright © by Paul McGehee. Used with permission from the artist

The Potomac River has played an incredible role in our Nation’s history. Check out this timeline from pre-colonial days through the present and beyond and what PRKN and many others have done over the past 50 years to make the river swimmable, fishable, and drinkable.

We have not always treated the River well nor with the respect it deserves. Let’s redouble our efforts to make sure the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers of the future are fishable, swimmable, and provide safe drinking water for all.

Clean Water Act 1972-2022

for more resources and ways to promote your Clean Water Act 50th Anniversary Events visit