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Mid-Atlantic Water Protection

Anacostia River Urban Watershed

Anacostia Watershed

The Anacostia River watershed is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, 85% of which resides within Maryland and 15% within the District of Columbia. Its 176 square-mile drainage area is formed by two major tributaries, the Northwest and Northeast Branches. Downstream of the confluence of these two streams the Anacostia becomes a channelized freshwater tidal river which flows approximately 8.4 miles before joining with the Potomac River. The Anacostia is one of the most densely populated watersheds in the Chesapeake Bay Basin. The slow pace of the River and shallow depth contribute to its problems in that pollutants are not readily flushed from the system and settle and concentrate in the lower reaches.  The water quality reflects years of damage caused by urban pollution and habitat destruction. Poor water quality and impaired aquatic habitats make the river unhealthy.

EPA and dedicated partners in Maryland and the District of Columbia have worked together for over 25years to bring about improvements in pollution control and watershed health. Interstate agreements were signed by Prince George's and Montgomery counties, District of Columbia, and Maryland elected officials in 1987, 1997 and 2000. A report to Congress prepared by EPA in 1992 recommended a greater federal role in the cleanup due to the sizable federal lands and interstate nature of the management plan. EPA formally became a voting member of the Watershed Restoration Committee in 1996. In June, 2006, a new restoration governance structure, the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership (the Partnership or AWRP), was established to better address chronic challenges facing the watershed.

EPA is represented in the AWRP on the Leadership Council and the Steering and Management Committees and on sub-committees as appropriate. Other active Federal agencies include the US Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Other federal, District, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and citizens in the Anacostia watershed work with the Partnership, as well.  For more information about the AWRP, see http://www.anacostia.net/about.html.

The River is no longer the forgotten river. Major restoration efforts underway are beginning to improve conditions, but years of continued commitment are needed to bring about a substantial improvement in the health of the system.

View EPA press releases about the Anacostia

View the Anacostia Trash TMDL
(PDF portfolio) (97 pg, 2.7M, About PDF)

Anacostia River Restoration Efforts

Regulatory and Enforcement Actions

EPA has put in place several tools under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to reduce pollutants to the Anacostia River and improve water quality.

Combined Sewer Overflow Control

One of the most impactful of these actions will be the near elimination of combined sewer overflows to the tidal Anacostia River by 2018.  DC Water is under a federal consent decree to capture roughly 98% of the sewer overflows annually to the river and in so doing will not only reduce bacteria levels in the river but divert street runoff and toxics to the wastewater plant for treatment.  See http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/2004+press+releases/6d9d5b3d28fc4ca6852570d60070fef1?opendocument and http://www.dcwater.com/workzones/projects/longtermcontrolplan.cfm for additional information.  EPA continues to monitor and enforce the consent decree provisions which will have a dramatic effect on the water quality of the tidal river. 

MS4 Storm Water Permit for the District of Columbia

In 2012, EPA renewed the District’s municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit, which requires sustainable storm water management techniques including green roofs, tree planting, and retaining rainfall on-site from redevelopment projects. Improperly managed stormwater runoff from the District damages streams, causes significant erosion, and carries excessive pollutants like nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, toxic metals, and solvents downstream and into the Chesapeake Bay. See http://www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/npdes/dcpermits.htm for more information about DC’s MS4 permit.

WSSC Case and Settlement 

EPA is actively enforcing and overseeing a federal consent decree signed in 2005 to reduce pollution from the Washington Sanitary Sewer Commission (WSSC).  Reducing overflows from the sanitary sewer system will keep a range of pollutants from entering the watershed including bacteria, pathogens and other harmful pollutants that seriously degrade water quality, harm aquatic life and threaten public health. Additional information can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/cwa/wssc072605.html




Anacostia Watershed Partners

Lead Applicant

Anacostia Watershed Society

DC Department of Transportation

Prince George’s County, MD


  • University of MD
  • City of College Park, MD
  • Nat’l Capital Parks & Planning Commission
  • MD State Highways
  • Montgomery City (MD) DEP
  • Earth Conservation Corps
  • Washington Parks and People
  • Casey Trees Endowment
  • Shaw Eco-Village
  • Howard University
  • Low Impact Development Center
  • DC Dept of Env.
  • Anacostia Waterfront Corp.
  • DC Office of Planning
  • *USEPA
  • *US Fed. Hwy Admin
  • MD State Highways
  • Prince George's Dept. of Public Works
  • Nat'l Capital Parks & Planning Commission
  • Prince George's Dept. of Env. Res.

* Previously funded projects


EPA Region 3 Contact Information

Jon M. Capacasa
Director, Water Protection Division 215-814-2300
Dominique Lueckenhoff
Deputy Director, Water Protection Division 215-814-5810
Catherine King
Anacostia Watershed Program Manager 215-814-2657

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