DC Water Considers Alternatives to Major Tunnel

Photo by Melbourne Water.

As GM first reported many, many moons ago, DC Water is under a court decree to address the chronic problem of untreated sewage being dumped into the Potomac and other local waterways. One of the measures it has proposed to tackle the issue is to dig a gigantic tunnel underneath the Georgetown waterfront running all the way to about the Kennedy Center. The agency, however, is now exploring whether it might satisfy its obligations without digging as large a tunnel.

The purpose of the tunnel is to act as a giant underground reservoir to capture excess storm-water during heavy rains. As it is, when the street drains get overflooded, the excess water is directed to a series of overflow sewage drainage pipes which dump into Rock Creek and the Potomac. This wouldn’t be that huge of a problem except for the fact that in older sections of the town like Georgetown, the storm sewers and the household sewers are combined. So after particularly heavy rains, what you flush down the toilet will soon be floating down the Potomac. (Sorry for that graphic image).

For a while DC Water has explored using alternative measures to address the overflow problem. And this week it announced those alternative plans formally. Specifically, it suggests that by implementing “green infrastructure” (or “GI”) enough rain water can be diverted from storm drains in Georgetown to eliminate the need for the tunnel to be built through Georgetown (it would still be built between Rock Creek and the Kennedy Center).

The details are hazy (notwithstanding the fact that the full report is massive), but among the plans would include spending $30 million in west Georgetown on GI projects. These projects would likely include encouraging the installation of rain barrels (GM did it, it’s easy!), rain gardens, green roofs, and impervious surfaces. The report states that it would expect to spend $225k per impervious acre. GM asked DC Water how that money would be spent (e.g. city built projects? financial incentives to residents? etc.) but he didn’t hear back. Given the budgeting, some sort of a targeted financial incentive program seems most likely.

Frankly, GM would love a green roof, especially if the city wants to pay for it (although, the rain barrel has probably accomplished about all the rain water diverting that GM can contribute). But if you have an opinion, submit to to DC Water these ways:

– Email:

– Mail:
Clean Rivers GI
DC Clean Rivers Project
5000 Overlook Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20032

– Online Survey
Click Here

More information is available below under “Resources” or by contacting DC Water’s Office of External Affairs at (202) 787-2200.

Public Summit Meeting: The meeting will begin with an overview of the proposed amendments and supporting justification, followed by a question and answer period.

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments
777 North Capitol Street, NE, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20002,
January 22, 2014 from 2-4 pm.



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3 responses to “DC Water Considers Alternatives to Major Tunnel

  1. The big tunnel is not so big because WASA is expanding the size of Blue Plains, and increasing the capacity of the pumps. Thus, they do not need as much storage capacity in the Potomac tunnel because it can be dewatered (pumped dry) much faster.

    A shorter big tunnel means the simplest solution for the Combined Sewer Overflows west of Key Bridge would no longer be available. Hence, the Green Initiatives. However, WASA is also seeking to delay the date by when the set of overflows from west Georgetown would be abated. The delay would mean abatement wouldn’t occur for another 20 years. ,

  2. Encouraging the installation of impervious surfaces? Author needs a better editor.

  3. WASA did not do it’s job since the early 1800’s. The polluted water mostly went into the Anacostia, the African American side of DC. So they really didn’t care, just like the flooding into houses in Bloomingdale. Now they are building this Boondoggle at McMillan, a park we need to restore. The city govt. fenced it off for 27 years in racist discrimination against lower income DC residents. Would they have waited 30 years to mitigate the raw sewage coming into the basements in Kalorama. Fight the DC Mayor(criminal) stop the surplus of McMillan..The minds of our govt. officials are polluted.This whole thing is to keep the insane over urbanization?developer pig fest going full blast, while the EPA says stop the sewage in the rivers. We need to jail GRAY and the euthanize the City Council, like you would any rabid animal. It’s only merciful.

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