DC officials closely monitoring Potomac River water levels as another heatwave approaches

As another heatwave is set to strike the DMV, officials are closely monitoring the river levels and flow of the Potomac River.

While they stress that the area is nowhere close to voluntary or mandatory restrictions, they’re still keeping a close eye on it.

D.C. is a bit unique in that it’s an extremely large metropolitan area where the vast majority of people – an estimated 5 million – rely on just one single source of drinking water: the Potomac River.     

The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin did stress that the area is not close to emergency lows but is in a posture now where they’re monitoring the river closely and report that some small actions have been put in place along the river to ensure residents don’t notice the drought levels.

Michael Nardolilli is the executive director of the ICPRB. He tells FOX 5 that there are plenty of redundancies built into the system to deal with the level of drought the area is seeing now.

However, there’s a sense of urgency to further study creating more, larger redundancies in response to climate change.

The ICPRB’s modeling does predict a hotter, wetter Potomac over time but less consistent weather patterns.

"Variability will increase, and that’s where the problem is," Nardolilli said. "If we have a drought that’s turbocharged by climate change, that’s something the system is not accustomed to deal with." 

Congress passed a bill saying they want to study this further, but Nardolilli says the fight to fund that study is ongoing.

This is on the minds of the Potomac Conservancy as well.

President Hedrick Belin says this is a widespread regional issue because of the 5 million people who rely on this lone source. He says the potential of the drought conditions the area sees now could be more prolonged over time – impacting the flow of the river, which would have impacts on drinking water, the ecosystem and recreation.

"The evidence, unfortunately, is right in front of us: it’s not just a scientific exercise. People are seeing it and experiencing it and when they’re out tomorrow on Labor Day, if they’re out, I’m sure they’re going to notice that the water levels are down," Belin said. 

Again, it’s key to emphasize that D.C. is not yet at the point where there are voluntary or mandatory conservation measures.

However, a spokesperson for D.C. Water, along with the ICPRB, says they are asking people to think about conserving where they can: Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth or doing dishes, wait for the laundry hamper to be full before you wash it, limit the amount of water used for landscaping to name a few.