Would you care for some PCB with your sushi? How about DDT with your drinking water? The “Nation’s River” has come a long way since the enactment of the Clean Water Act, but The Potomac still needs our help securing a healthy future. As the main source of drinking water for residents in the region, restoration, and sustainability, is imperative. Showing signs of progress, the Potomac earned an overall grade of C on its 2013 State of the Nation’s River report card, one grade above last year’s D ranking, says The Washington Times. While toxin levels of nitrogen and sediment loads were down, phosphorus remains among the top contaminating culprits. Luckily, with a few small changes, residents of the watershed states have the power to decrease phosphorus levels and preserve water quality for generations to come.

At Home

From running errands to home maintenance, on-land activities are just as responsible for the Potomac’s toxicity levels as on-water practices. The Potomac Conservancy reveals polluted runoff is the fastest growing contributor to the river’s declining health and its tributaries. Each time a flood of water washes off the land after a rain storm, excess nutrients and other toxins and contaminants flow directly into streams and rivers. To reduce runoff pollution, consider planting a rain garden. Adding greenery to your yard helps absorb water within the soil and keeps harmful waste from entering the water lines. Another great option is to invest in a rain barrel. According to Better Homes and Gardens, for each inch of rain that falls on 500 square feet of roof, you can collect 300 gallons of water, making this good option for the environment and your wallet.

On the Water

Before you embark on a leisurely boating excursion, make sure your outing promotes water conservancy. Top sources of algae and weed producing phosphates include paints, garbage, gasoline, and motor oil, all of which are emitted from irresponsible boating practices. Whether you live in DC or Virginia, practice greener boating by taking your state’s required boating safety course. There are tons of online resources that can help you understand responsible practices like disposing hazardous waste at the appropriate facilities when you return to dock. Every watershed state has its own boating rules and regulations; however, most shore-side facilities offer pump-out stations for proper waste disposal.

In the Community

Get involved and stay motivated by joining like-minded conservationists in efforts to improve the Potomac and the world. A variety of community cleanups are offered on land and on water. Join a group to clean up litter on land or get involved with a paddling group to pick up floating waste from the river. If you prefer getting a little dirty, visits organizations like Growing Native for hands-on action. The organization engages volunteers in the Potomac River region to collect native hardwood and shrub seeds. The seeds are donated to state nurseries in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, where they are planted and used to restore streamside forests throughout the 15,000 square mile watershed. If you’re not an adventurer or are short on time to volunteer, do your part by reporting pollution and help end wasteful practices.

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