Washington, D.C.

After making the long road trip from N.Y. we traveled to Washington, D.C. for interviews regarding both national river health and information on the regional Potomac river.

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First, we met with Carlton Haywood, executive director of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. Haywood’s organization helps coordinate planning, policy, and protection efforts on the Potomac River and its tributaries. More than 6 million people live in the Potomac River Basin, including the residents of the Nation’s Capital. In fact, about 75 percent of D.C.’s drinking water comes directly from the Potomac.

Haywood noted that in most communities, whether residents know it or not, the vast majority of their water comes from local rivers and streams. It’s something that we should all bear in mind, said Haywood.

“What people should know is their own actions have an impact,” said Haywood, referring to proper disposal of waste, hazardous materials, chemicals and other potential pollutants. “People should realize they have a personal responsibility.” 

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To get a national perspective on river health and importance, we met with David Evans, deputy director of wetlands, oceans and watersheds for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Evans provided more information on the Clean Water Act (CWA), a topic that was discussed with Paul Gallay in New York the previous day.

Evans explained that the CWA, along with complementary legislation called the Safe Drinking Water Act, aimed to provide national standards and a framework to ensure safety and health for both humans and the environment.

“It seems obvious,” Evans said, but “water allows for life as we know it. Without clean water, life cannot thrive.”

Although much progress has been made, Evans and others say protection efforts can never stop because of a number of factors, most notably population growth and development. More people means more waste, more pavement and more human activities, all of which increases the opportunities for pollutants to threaten waterways.

“The greatest challenge that comes in the future is our lifestyles,” said Evans. “We continue to grow as a nation. Our infrastructure is aging. We need to reinvest in that infrastructure. We know what needs to be done. It’s just the multitude of locations that makes it challenging.”

To see more photos of our time in Washington DC, please visit our Washington D.C. gallery page.