Mayor Bowser Invites Residents to Celebrate Progress Toward a Swimmable Anacostia River at Splash Event on July 8

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

First Swim Event in 50 years Celebrates Water Quality Improvements of the Anacostia River

(Washington, DC) – Mayor Muriel Bowser, the DC Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), and partners from the Anacostia Riverkeeper invite District residents to celebrate progress toward a swimmable Anacostia River at an event on Saturday, July 8 at 12:00 p.m. The event will give residents a rare chance to swim in and reconnect with the Anacostia River while making history at the first permitted swim event in the Anacostia River in more than 50 years. The free community event, Splash, is open to all individuals aged 18 and older who know how to swim.  

“This event is a celebration of all the organizations and people who have been working for years, and continue to work every day, so that we can have a swimmable, fishable Anacostia River,” said Mayor Bowser. “And while this is the first permitted swimming event in 50 years, we also know there will be many more as we continue our transformation of the Anacostia River.” 

The event will be held at the Kingman Island dock next to the Benning Road Bridge and residents will be able to swim in the river during a designated 20-minute time slot. Registration to attend the Splash event is required, and residents will be notified via email if there is a change in the event schedule. Register here

“DOEE is proud to support our grantees’ work in improving the water quality of the District to ensure we reach Mayor Bowser’s goal of the District’s rivers becoming swimmable and fishable,” said DOEE Acting Director Richard Jackson. “Our natural resources are necessary for the overall health and success of our residents and we appreciate the hard work that’s being done.”

The Splash event is hosted by the Anacostia Riverkeeper, which is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to protecting the Anacostia River for all who live, work, and play in the watershed. Established in 2008, Anacostia Riverkeeper has been a trusted name in the DC and Maryland metropolitan communities. Learn more at  

“Despite the environmental issues still facing the Anacostia River, water quality has significantly improved over the past few decades. We are as close as we have ever been to the possibility of bringing back a swimmable Anacostia,” said Riverkeeper President and Founding Board Member Suzy Kelly.  

The DC Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring Program has tracked the river’s environmental progress for five years and has found low bacteria levels at key recreational sites along the Anacostia. The Anacostia Riverkeeper reports that “in 2022, monitoring sites at Kingman Island, Buzzards Point, and Washington Channel passed recreational water quality standards over 90% of the time. These trends have continued for the 2023 monitoring season so far.”

“We are thrilled to be able to mark this milestone towards a swimmable Anacostia River with Splash,” says Riverkeeper Trey Sherard. “It’s really a testament to the impactful work that has been done in the watershed.” 

In 2016, Mayor Bowser joined the Montgomery County Executive and Prince George’s County Executive in signing the Anacostia River Accord, signifying a renewed commitment on the part of the three jurisdictions to work collaboratively toward removing trash from the Anacostia River, its tributaries, and watershed. That same year, the Mayor signed a 2016 law that designated DC’s official state fish and established new pathways for protecting native wildlife, critical habitats, and shorelines. In 2018, which the District celebrated as the Year of the Anacostia, the Mayor announced a landmark $4.7 million investment for educational and recreational improvements on Kingman Island and Heritage Islands.  

Since taking office, the Bowser Administration has taken a multi-tiered approach to cleaning up the District’s waterways, protecting native wildlife, and preserving important habitats, including: 

  • Continued support of the ongoing $45 million Anacostia River Sediment Project to reverse the history of industrial pollution in the river.  
  • Spending approximately $25 million annually on programs and projects to protect and restore District waters using green infrastructure, tree plantings, stream and wetland restoration, and numerous other activities. 
  • Using approximately $15 million in federal grants to support restoration activities.
  • Launching the Anacostia Green Boats program in 2021, which allows participants to get meaningful hands-on boating experience while also collecting marine debris from the Anacostia River.  


As a reminder, currently, residents are only allowed to swim in the Anacostia River during special events permitted by DOEE. Obtain a permit for a sanctioned swimming event here. In 2018, DOEE issued an amendment to the 1971 swimming ban to allow for permitted swim events in District waters, such as the Splash event. 

Learn more about the work of the water quality monitoring program.