Shepherd Snyder Published

Potomac River Cleaner Than It Was A Decade Ago, Report Says

North fork south branch Potomac River
The Potomac River.
TimK MSI/Wikimedia Commons

The Potomac River is cleaner than it used to be, according to a new report. But there is still work to be done.

The Potomac Conservancy gave the river a B grade on its “Potomac River Report Card.” That’s a step up from a report 10 years ago. It’s also a slight improvement from the B-minus grade the conservancy’s last report granted in 2020.

The improvement is in large part because of a sharp reduction in river pollutants like nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment over the past three decades, according to measurements from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program. 

Wildlife is also coming back to habitats in and around the Potomac, with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources reporting a return in abundance of American shad.

Runoff pollution, deforestation and climate change were noted as the top threats the Potomac River currently faces against restoration. According to the report, habitats along the river are not recovering as quickly as projected. That means restoration efforts likely won’t reach certain benchmarks by 2025, a goal set by the Chesapeake Executive Council in 2009.

West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle includes about 100 miles of the Potomac River, from Hampshire County to its confluence with the Shenandoah in Harpers Ferry.