Potomac River

By: Samantha C. , Megan E. , Stephanie S. , and Shruthi V.



  • In the 1600's, there were many animals, such as, otters, beavers, martens, and sables.
  • In the 1700's, the first fisheries were established.
  • In the 1800's, the river acme more polluted because people started fishing more. Water became more turbid and less DO caused fish and other marine life to die.
  • In the beginning of the 19th century, with increasing mining and agriculture upstream and urban sewage and runoff downstream, the water quality of the Potomac deterioted. Millions of citizens use the river and the land nearby for boating, fishing, bird watching and other recreational activities. The area is home to many birds, such as, the Great Blue Heron and the American Bald Eagle.

Major Industries


  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Coal mining
  • Pulp and paper production
  • Chemical production
  • Military and government installations
  • Fishing



  • Runoff from parking lots occurs in natural areas, such as, state parks. Though water runs directly from impervious surfaces, to the Potomac river. The runoff will absorb pollutants, such as, dirt particles and fluids that have dripped from cars and trucks.
  • The dissolved pollution is carried into the river, and eventually, into the Chesapeake Bay.
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  • Point Sources- Combined Sewage Overflows (CSOs)
CSOs receive murky groundwater and carry it to bodies of water.
  • Non-Point Sources- Polluted Agricultural and Urban Runoff, Construction, Erosion, Litter
Runoff that picks up and carries pollution from communities with different land. Such has, farm land (agricultural), paved roads (urban).

Affects on Quality of Water


  • Excessive nutrients (phosphates and nitrates) produce algae blooms, depriving oxygen from underwater organisms
  • Sewage overflows and sediment disturbances affect the turbidity of the water, limiting the growth of plants
  • Climate change can increase the temperature of the water

Places Affected by Urban Runoff


  • Raged Point Beach
  • Hesther Cove
  • Drum Bay
  • Betty's Pond
  • Hering Pond
  • Seeder Island
  • Great Island
  • Columbia Cove
  • Monroe Bay

Ecosystems Adapt


  • The living things in the ecosystem have to adapt to the water quality.
  • Some plants and animals have to live in a specific environment in order to survive. These plants and animals die when the environment is constantly changing.
  • According to Potomac.org, “The Potomac River is home to dozens of species of fish — from largemouth bass to migratory shad. Fish can be thought of as "indicator species" for the overall health of the river because they are impacted by a host of environmental factors. If there's pollution in the water, they're coming in contact with it. An abundance and variety of fish in a river is often a sign of good water quality.”

Improving the Potomac


There has been various projects that have been focusing on helping the river and marine life, such as, the Clean Water act, Enviromental Integrity project, and the Potomac River Tunnel Project. It has improved a lot since President Johnson called it a 'national disgrace.'

Everything is affected


The marine life living in the bay is affected by the water quality and the environment around it. The pollution from the Potomac will eventually lead to the entire bay. The demographic of the land is important to the health of the bay because the runoff, pollution, and groundwater all lead to the bay affecting the living things in it. Not only the animal's and plant’s health is concerned, but we, as humans should be concerned about our health which is affected by the environment around us, including the Chesapeake Bay. “The water was so polluted you needed a tetanus shot if you fell in. Today, however, the Potomac is still threatened by pollution from agricultural and urban runoff which will only get worse if Congress rolls back national clean water protections (americanriver.org).”