Second drinking water source for DC, swimming in Potomac to be studied

A second source of drinking water, as well as swimming in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, could be in D.C.’s future.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said Tuesday the House’s Water Resources Development Act of 2022 gives the all-clear for the Army Corps of Engineers to study that, as well as flooding in the Federal Triangle area.

“There is an urgent need for Congress to act to protect the drinking water and other infrastructure of the nation’s capital from serious vulnerabilities, and I am pleased WRDA contains three provisions to address issues D.C. has long confronted,” Norton said in a statement.

“I previously announced that I would file these provisions, and it’s gratifying to see these critical needs for the District included in WRDA. I will work to ensure they remain in the final bill.”

D.C. is dependent on the Potomac River for drinking water. Norton cautioned that “natural or man-made events” could make that water “unusable” for drinking.

“The federally owned and operated Washington Aqueduct produces drinking water from the river for D.C. and parts of Virginia. However, the aqueduct maintains only a single day of backup water supply,” a release said, bolstering the case for a second source of drinking water for the nation’s capital.

The release also said a study on the feasibility of swimming in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers is “the next logical step” to get those most out of the waterways.

And Norton cited climate change and heavy rain as reasons to study flooding in the Federal Triangle area. Recent flooding has led to closures on Constitution Avenue, as well as power and transportation disruptions.

The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is slated mark up the bill at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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