Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

Part of our local watershed, Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

by Julie Clendenin

I spend a lot of time enjoying Rock Creek Park, which runs alongside my Kensington neighborhood. I drive through it every day on my way to work.  I run and walk regularly on the Beach Drive path. I have enjoyed the playgrounds and wetlands with my children and friends. I love it. Rock Creek is an oasis of natural beauty in the midst of our highways, lawns, houses, supermarkets, and sports fields. But sometimes, when the rains (and snows) are heavy, Beach Drive is closed due to high water, which reminds me that our suburban sprawl is a real threat to this precious natural wetland. We are slowly edging out the Potomac River’s natural filtration system of forests and wetlands.

Right now the water is running fast and the marshy grass along the creek’s banks is pocked with huge puddles. And all of our runoff — fertilizers, pet waste, de-icing chemicals, and other pollutants — is headed straight for the Potomac River (our main source of drinking water) and the Chesapeake Bay.

According to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB), of the 14,650 square miles in the Potomac River watershed, 57.6% is forest; 31.8% is agricultural; 5% is water or wetlands (like Rock Creek Park); and just 4.8% developed land. While agriculture and development play important roles in our community, it’s important to understand their far-reaching affects on the local watershed. Everything we do on land has an impact on our river, which is the source for 90% of DC’s drinking water; in fact, 486 million gallons are taken out of the Potomac every day to provide drinking water for 5 million people in the DC metro area. We need to protect our river.

Recently, a number of water conservation groups organized a regional river clean up day. including the Alice Ferguson Foundation, which reports that more than 5,000 volunteers picked up over 1oo tons of trash. Here’s some of the things pulled out of the river banks:

  • 73,700 beverage containers
  • 7,800 cigarettes
  • 18,300 plastic bags
  • 510 tires

RWFFLogo_FullColor_EST2012All of this trash was rescued from the Potomac River watershed. How does that make you feel? Disgusted? Regretful?  Personally, I feel grateful to the many people who spent their weekend cleaning up after us. I also feel inspired by them, and I’m thinking that maybe you do to. The Reel Water Film Festival, Saturday, June 14 at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, is a great place to learn more about local water issues. Also, here are a few things, including some from Potomac Riverkeeper, that you can do to help protect the Potomac River:

  • Scoop pet waste and dispose of it properly
  • Plant a rain garden or use a rain barrel – Montgomery County residents are eligible for rebates of up to $2,500 through the RainScapes Rewards Rebate Program
  • Properly dispose of hazardous wastes like oil and paint
  • Use natural fertilizers and do not over-fertilize your lawn or use chemical pesticides
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle (don’t forget your reusable shopping bags)
  • Wash your car at an eco-friendly commercial car wash or use biodegradable soap
  • Safely dispose of unused drugs and other chemicals – DO NOT FLUSH THEM
  • Spend time enjoying  the river and show your friends and family why it’s important to protect it

Julie Clendenin grew up in Montgomery County and is happily raising her family here with her husband, Tom.  She enjoys having unlimited access to Rock Creek Park; tasty, cold water from her kitchen tap; and swimming in the ocean.

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