Written By: Zach Champ,
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For thousands of years, people have lived, hunted, fished, and traveled along the various rivers of the DMV. Many of these rivers have remained unchanged, reflecting the same character and exuberance for generations. Others have faced dramatic alterations due to human impact.

Regardless of what has happened to them over time, all of these rivers have remained significantly important for local agriculture, trade, and industry.

You may have heard the phrase that rivers are a highway...

In the past this was especially true as traveling along waterways was the most efficient and fastest way to get from one point to another.

What did the four ancient River Valley civilizations have in common? How  did they differ? - Quora

Civilization follows rivers! Think about back to when you were a student in high school or college and learning ancient world history… you always learned about the ancient rivers of the Nile, Euphrates, Tigris, Indus, and Yellow Rivers which sustained the great ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Vedic India, and Imperial China.

These rivers made a great impact on their local communities and peoples.

The same is true with our rivers here in the DMV!

During the early colonial period of America, the DMV’s rivers were vital for the tobacco trade which the majority of early colonies relied upon for commerce.

These same rivers also carried the same ships which had traveled from far across the Atlantic Ocean carrying the unfortunate souls destined to live life in the New World as slaves.

The Federal Government, recognizing the importance of keeping our waterways safe from pollution and toxic waste passed the Clean Water Act in 1972.

This law was among the first keystone environmental legislative acts protecting our nation’s land and natural resources.


Water is vital to all living things on Earth. Rivers are the bearers of life and are truly divine and spiritual. We must respect, revere, and appreciate our rivers.

As the DMV continues to grow and expand, the increased settlement and population size will create additional stress and problems for our local rivers and watersheds.

Climate Change will cause more flooding, and floods affect local water quality due to increased sediment, pollutants, and contaminants that get exposed to the water supply after large storms.

How our rivers will respond to all these challenges is uncertain, but if we don’t take drastic measures to protect local rivers and watersheds there could be catastrophic consequences.

Everything will be affected including water quality, wildlife, and human culture!


Rivers are an important part of the Water Cycle. The Water Cycle is how nature recycles and transports water around the globe from the oceans to the atmosphere.

When it rains in mountainous regions, water drains through the intricate network of rivers towards the coast.

The water that reaches the coast and oceans ends up eventually being evaporated into the atmosphere where it condenses into clouds which travel and rain back down inland.



This flow of water is essential to all living things on Earth, regardless of where they are, for food, habitat, energy, and more!

One way we can assess the local health of watersheds and rivers is by examining local fish species. Fish and their whole lives depend on clean, quality water to thrive and reproduce. Whenever large amounts of fish die in local waterways, wildlife biologists and ecologists take note. If fish populations can’t remain stable, entire food chains can collapse which can directly affect not just wildlife but people as well!


You may have heard before that humans are made of 2/3 water.

Yet, what you may not also realize is that the water we drink and consume daily is the very same water that flows through us!

The water in your body comes directly from your local environment, and if your local water sources are polluted and filled with contaminants, then this is all accumulating in your body, even when the water goes through a treatment plant.

Some scientist believe that this is what may be causing certain issues like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer's, autism, and other serious medical conditions.

How much water should you drink? - Harvard Health

It’s important to remember that in this day and age, if you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water, no matter what your water source is, you will probably want to use an additional water filtration device with your faucet or fridge as an added precaution.

Even if you filter your water, contaminants from local waterways can still be an issue if you eat local fish, plants, and wildlife. 

How? Because of bioaccumulation, which is a biological process in which minerals, nutrients, and contaminants can gather inside living things when these compounds are recycled through the food chain.


We live today in an age filled with many industrial, pharmaceutical, and chemical products. Almost everyone in America today uses nail polish, shampoo, detergents, and cleaning solvents on a regular basis. All these products consist of man-made chemicals and compounds, which end up through waste and runoff into our local watersheds. Many of these chemicals and compounds have never been studied thoroughly by science and it is unclear what effects they can have on living things.

This has resulted in the rise of what is called Emerging Contaminants. Emerging Contaminants are a serious issue of concern to local ecologists and wildlife biologists.

GeoSphere | Emerging Contaminants: The Rough Teenagers

In the past few years fish, amphibians, and in some cases mammals that live around the DMV’s rivers have been found with serious genetic defects and mutations. This often results in issues such as extra or missing limbs and organs, the development of intersex features, as well as the disruption of normal biological processes in animals.

Why is this occurring? It’s because many of the emerging contaminants within our waterways, especially the chemical and pharmaceutical compounds that we use every day as part of modern medicine are endocrine disruptors.

Many of the chemicals are powerful hormones and when animals are exposed for their entire lives to these chemicals it causes complications that create unforeseen consequences.

If we know all types of animals are suffering from exposure to these compounds in the water, the same water which we drink and rely upon, how can we be so sure there are no potential problems in store for us?

It is unfortunate that in our nation’s capital there is so much contamination, pollution, trash and plastic damaging our waterways.

Common sense tells us that plastic doesn’t break down so don’t throw trash away improperly, or that mixing chemicals with the environment isn’t good.

Yet people still litter and companies still try to cut corners on regulatory rules to maximize their profits.

Unless we bring attention to the issue and work hard to change American attitudes towards the environment and how we live then we are only going to continue to make a big mess.