At my home in Florida, the first thing I do every morning is paddle board. It’s the perfect way to wake up: a non-strenuous workout atop water rolling in sun glitter.
When I came to college in D.C., I immediately took note of paddle boarders on the Potomac River… but friends warned me,
“It’s gross to swim in the Potomac.”
Yet I saw all these boats, paddle boarders, and kayakers on the Potomac.
So you can’t jump in the water on a hot summer day?
Or cannon ball off a boat?
Or take some goggles and hope to see a fish?
It seemed that without being able to swim in the water, people were required tostay in their vesicles, perhaps to stick a toe or two in the water for a cool down.
Well….it turns out you actually can swim in parts of the Potomac, according to Caroline Dovovan. She explained how people should wait at least 48 hours before swimming in the Potomac after it rains since this is when there are the most bacteria present. Then, she says to check online for swimming and fishing advisories for specificinstructions about whether or not an area of the Potomac is safe.
Caroline is a program manager at the Integration & Application Network at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Her goal at IAN is to enable better communication to empower change. Some of their specialties include: communicating science effectively, reporting ecosystem status, teaching and training, catalyzing conservation outcomes and building strategic partnerships. Caroline works on specific projects like the Chesapeake Bay report card, the Long Island Sound report card, and the Chesapeake Behavior Change survey.
We were able to sit down with Caroline and learn about the nation’s river.
The biggest news was that the Potomac River has a D+ rating for water quality.
She advises that the best ways to help the Potomac are to reduce water usage, turn off lights, only fertilize plants once a year during fall, don't apply fertilizers or chemical pesticides before it rains, rake leaves and collect grass clippings for compost, and don’t pour toxic chemicals into drains or sewers.
The water in the Potomac may be greener than in Florida, but if we commit to caring, more parts of the river will become available and the river will reflect positively in the heart of our nation.