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 made clean water a national priority.

In 2022, fifty years later, we commemorated that commitment to make our rivers, lakes and coastal waters cleaner and healthier places to swim, fish and drinkable.  We recognized that although there undeniably is work still to be done, we also celebrated the role Potomac Riverkeeper Network has in 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 celebration of the anniversary and our promotion of our Swimmable Potomac campaign was to secure a commitment from  Mayor Bowser and the DC Council to lift 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.  So we started, on World Water Day in March, with an event that featured Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and other dignitaries to announce our petition drive to call on the Mayor and DC Council to act. Dean Naujoks, our Potomac Riverkeeper, was a media star in the press coverage that resulted!

We are happy to report that legislation was passed that mandates the study of possible swimming beaches in DC, AND the DC government acknowledges that lifting the swim ban is their goal!

Design by Twig Murray

the Wins!

Past, Present and
Future of Our Rivers

Clean Water Act
Fact Sheets

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

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.

Clean Water Act 1972-2022

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.