Urban Streams: Enjoying Our Stream Safely

Page updated on Sep 2, 2016 at 12:28 PM

Urban Stream Signs Group at FMR

Alexandria’s past, present, and future are indelibly linked to the Potomac River and the quality of life the river sustains.  One of Alexandria’s main features to enjoy is our numerous streams and parks.  We can all really enjoy walking in the parks or using the bike trails along our streams and the Potomac River to commune with nature and checkout wildlife that live in these areas.  Visit the Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities Department (RPCA) for a listing of all City parks and the numerous activities you can enjoy. 

Check out the Bikeways Map for trails to enjoy and the Watershed Map to see which local watershed you live in or like to play in.  The City of Alexandria is located in the Potomac River Watershed, which is part of the Chesapeake Bay.  All the rain that falls in Alexandria enters the Potomac directly or through one of our local streams.

Protecting Local Water Quality

Water quality in Alexandria is managed in a sustainable manner consistent with good stewardship of the local streams, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay for the public health, ecological, and recreational benefit of current and future generations.  As a guiding principle in the City’s Eco-City Charter (adopted by Council June 14, 2008) that was born out of the Eco-City Alexandria Initiative, the Water Resources Principle is consistent with a systematic and integrated approach to sustainability, where we celebrate our heritage as a great port city by improving the Potomac River waterfront and improving the quality of our streams.  To meet the vision of the Charter, the City will:EAP 2030 Cover 

  • Promote public health by continuing to ensure safe and reliable drinking water.
  • Use environmentally responsible flood management, stormwater control, and wastewater treatment to protect the public’s health and property.
  • Promote - through sustainable practices - safe, swimmable, and fishable waterways for its citizens and visitors, and
  • Enhance the ecological integrity of its downstream waters, by minimizing stormwater runoff and pollutants draining to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

Following the vision of the Eco-City Charter, the Environmental Action Plan 2030 (EAP) was created by diverse stakeholders and adopted by City Council (June 2009) to serve as a roadmap for to implement the sustainability visions and principles of the Charter.  The numerous goals and actions of the EAP strive to make our local streams fishable and swimmable. In an urban area like Alexandria that is located at the bottom of the watershed, stormwater or nonpoint source pollution is the main source of pollution to our local streams.  Also, like many other historic cities on the east coast, combined sewer systems are a source of point sources pollution, along with waste water treatment plants. 

How to Enjoy Our Streams Safely

While the City has programs to protect local watersheds, stream water can contain micro-organisms that can make people sick, whether the stream is located in an urban area or in the middle of a forest. Here are some tips on enjoying our streams safely:
Urban Stream Sign

  • Never drink stream water. 
  • Wash your hands after coming into contact with stream water and before eating. 
  • Keep stream water out of your eyes, ears, mouth, or any open sores. Children who are too young to understand these precautions should not be allowed to play in streams. 
  • Fishing and wading are OK, but do not swim or bathe in streams. Do not eat uncooked fish caught in local streams. 
  • Use caution when wading to avoid falling on slippery rocks, and wear shoes to protect your feet from broken glass and other sharp objects.