Shall We Gather At The River?

About the author: Lars Wilcut joined EPA’s Beach Team in 2004. He helps oversee EPA’s beach monitoring and notification grants to coastal states and territories.

A couple weeks ago I went to see a baseball game at Nationals Park, which has some great views of the Anacostia River. As I stood there gazing up and down the river, I thought about how nice it is to be on the water.

Lars Wilcut in a kayakI love kayaking, and I paddled the Anacostia even before I joined the Office of Water. From my experience with water quality standards issues, I know how far the river is from meeting its designated uses. I still like it, though. It can be so tranquil out on the water, despite the bustle on the other side of the tree-lined riverbanks. Often, I was the only person on the river, feeling acutely like everyone else thought the river was a nuisance and didn’t want to be on or near it. I didn’t think much about the river before I started kayaking. Once I did get out there, though, I began to value it as an important part of our community that I wanted to protect.

So, if I could come to appreciate the Anacostia, can’t other people as well? Building public facilities like ballparks along urban waterways is a big step toward getting people to value their local water resources. What a great thing to have people come out of the ballpark after a game and stroll along the river! When a city reclaims its urban waterway as a community gathering place and surrounds it with public green space and ballparks, those waterways become as much a symbol of the city as the local sports teams.

Through the water quality standards-setting process, we can all participate in protecting our waters. Standards help define what we want our waters to be used for and how we want to make that happen. The people I work with are an integral part of the water quality standards process: EPA reviews and approves state water quality standards to make sure they meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Here in DC, as I return to Nationals Park over the coming seasons, I’m hopeful that we’ll see an improvement in the Anacostia’s water quality; I know EPA will do its part. Then, the next time I’m out there paddling, I won’t be the only one on the water.

Find out about your state’s water quality standards, from EPA’s Repository of water quality standards.