Archive, Editorial

Bravo for the Anacostia Watershed Society!

Kingman Island, Northeast Washington, D.C.

The Anacostia Watershed Society celebrated its 25th Anniversary recently on the banks of the Anacostia River in Washington, DC.  I was delighted to be there and to share the podium with the Honorable Anthony Williams, founder Robert Boone and a new friend from Boston – more on that in a moment.  For my part, I was pleased to emphasize that the people who give, work or volunteer for AWS are undertaking the most important work for the River.  Why?

Because people are at the heart of any action.  People must care about the river.  People must enjoy the river. People must monitor and report on the condition of the river.  People must advocate for change.  Informed, thoughtful people are what drives government, businesses, and other community organizations to act.  The action, though, starts with the people – not the other way around.

And AWS has been brilliant.  Starting from its roots in the heart and mind of Bob Boone, one of the most deeply passionate, and deeply principled environmental advocates I have met – AWS has helped lift the Anacostia River from polluted and forgotten obscurity to prominence as the “it” river for the current day.

The proud Wild Rice seed collection team.

A photo posted by Anacostia Watershed Society (@anacostiaws) on

Countless boat trips, presentations, stream clean-ups, community meetings and volunteer monitoring efforts have introduced countless people to the River.  Some of the countless people include Senator Ben Cardin, House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Minority Whip Chris Van Hollen, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, every mayor of the District since Anthony Williams and local officials from every jurisdiction in the watershed.

Summer evenings on the Anacostia river.


All of us have both marveled at the beauty of the river, the improvements that have been achieved, yet the heart-breaking challenges that still remain.

We also heard from Tom Sieniewicz from the Charles River Watershed Association at the event – which is just about twice as old an organization at 50 years.  He highlighted that the Charles River, another great waterway of a great older city, was graded at a D in 1994.  Yet after 20 years of committed dedicated effort since that date, the Charles received an A- in 2014.  Wow – an urban waterway, the Charles River in Boston, from D to A- in 20 years!

Two messages resonated with me.  One is that we can succeed!  Just as people can now swim in the Charles River, we can achieve the same for the Anacostia.  Fishable and swimmable on the Anacostia is possible…

The second is that the AWS is instrumental to the prospects for the Anacostia and its many neighborhoods. Its energetic membership and staff, led by superstar Jim Foster, who followed fellow superstar Jim Connolly, understands that people are the cornerstone of the future of the river.

DC Water will certainly do our part – and the Clean Rivers Project will drive the most significant improvements to the River in the last many decades.  Yet it is the Anacostia Watershed Society that is at the core of this effort.  We should all celebrate their 25th birthday, and join in helping them continue celebrating long into the future!

We all share in their success!

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