Anacostia Watershed Blog

The Fight Against Phragmites


The fight against invasive plants is a difficult one, as a matter of fact, it is a battle you shouldn't necessarily expect to win.

Removing invasive plants is not an easy enterprise, especially when it has to be done in a wetland, a rather muddy, wet and messy habitat to deal with. Our first Phragmites removal project started in 2010, and even though we made great strides for a couple of years, the effort fell apart when we left the site unattended for a growing season due to lack of funding, and, we were also busy with other ventures. One growing season, then another growing season… and then, you guessed it! Phragmites took over again. Ironically, Phragmites had previously encroached upon the same site after a previous wetland revegetation effort (which we still don’t know who did) was left unmaintained and the Phragmites literally took the whole site over. So, Phragmites = 2, people = ZERO. Ouch!!

Stream Restoration is Just One Key piece to the Anacostia River's Revitalization

By: Cyrus Chimento (Stewardship Intern)


Stream restoration projects have been a preferred tool for reducing pollution and gaining TMDL credits. However, it turns out that there is a shortage of data supporting the ability of stream restoration projects to reduce pollution, especially in the long-term.

The Bay Journal’s late October article, “Researchers examining effectiveness of stream restoration”, reported on the question of whether stream restoration, an expensive but favored tool of watershed improvement in Maryland, is resulting in ecological benefits that justify the investment.

El regreso de la vegetación acuática sumergida

Escrito y traducido por Alisa Fried, AWS Pasante

The Return of S.A.V.

By: Alisa Fried, AWS Stewardship Intern*


The presence of underwater grasses provides various benefits to the river and the organisms that live in and around it. 

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, The River’s Health Barometer

By: Audrey Pleva


Wild Celery underwater in the Susquehanna River. Credit: Debbie Hinkle, Chesapeake Quarterly

AWS is now moving underwater and beginning an exciting effort to restore the river’s submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV).  These beautiful grasses are essential to cleaning the river and providing oxygen to our suffocating fish and other aquatic organisms.

Restoring the River’s Wetlands


Gateways consists of non-tidal wetlands with a total area of about 10 acres, the picture shows a pond located right in the middle of the wetland which normally dries out in late summer. This pond provides important habitat for aquatic plants, invertebrates, wetland birds, amphibians, reptiles and other organisms.

Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species, in the Anacostia Watershed...??

Yes, indeed. Even in our highly urban watershed there are still some valuable biodiversity gems in need of conservation. Even though it is evident that a bulk of the species of plants and animals occurring in the Anacostia River watershed are widespread in the region and are “secure” to “apparently secure” according to NatureServe’s conservation status ranking system. But, with a decent area of natural habitats protected as public parks there’s got to be some “valuable” (conservation-wise) species rare species, and there are indeed.

A Briny Challenge to Cleaning the River

By Jorge Bogantes Montero
Natural Resources Specialist

With the exceptional polar surges we had earlier on, and a few significant snowstorms, the road salting season is in full swing. And with it come gargantuan quantities of sand applied to the sidewalks and roadways, often over applied, causing negative impacts on the waterways and the biodiversity of the watershed. This is one of the biggest challenges we face to improving the water quality in the Anacostia River and its tributaries since Sodium Chloride NaCl (aka salt) can affect the soils, water (both surface and ground water), plants and animals. Contamination of sodium in drinking water has been an issue in other areas of the country which is a concerning public health issue.

The Vine that Ate the South

You may have heard about "the vine that ate the south", Kudzu. Or you may have googled the name of the invasive just to get a peek at the plentiful photos of the vine available on the web. This includes staggering pictures of the vine choking out shrubs, trees, cars and even entire houses! Well, Kudzu is not just a problem of the south, anymore. The vine has been gradually spreading out of the the southeast where it was originally introduced to tackle the overwhelming soil erosion problems faced in that region as a result of unsustainable farming practices. Nowadays Kudzu can be found north and west all the way to Michigan, upstate New York and Washington state.


The heat island effect created by the highly urban environment of the Anacostia watershed makes it a Kudzu haven.

Green Waters, Nasty Waters

This past Wednesday, we headed to the woods of Pope Branch, a small tributary of the Anacostia River in SE DC, with employees from DC Water. During our invasive plant removal event last Saturday, part of DC Invasives Day, I spotted an evident sewage leak in the creek. A light gray color, with nasty odors and the presence of a pale scum inhabited by Tubifex worms, was a clear sign of raw sewage. The nasty gray waters were seeping out of the steep stream banks of the Pope Branch, dying the clear waters coming from upstream with the nasty stuff. Sewage pollution from a leak like this one is the last thing our river needs! Sewage is known to possess a myriad of nasty substances and pathogens that could impair a small waterway like Pope Branch very easily. Sewage contains nutrients that can cause algal blooms that end up depleting the dissolved oxygen in the water, it also contains chemicals like detergents and all the drugs (legal and illegal) that people consume.