Case Study: D.C. Water Pioneers of the Trash Skimmer Cleaning Process


    • 176-square-mile Anacostia River flows into the Potomac River
    • Anacostia one of the nations slowest and most polluted rivers
    • The watershed is home to over 800,000 residents in Maryland and Washington DC
    • The Potomac River provides drinking water for 500,000 residential, commercial and governmental customers
    • Waterways must remain navigable and safe for regattas and other boating activities


Potomac River by Washington DC


  • Roughly 23% of the land in the watershed is impervious
  • Anacostia watershed is one of the most urbanized in the United States
  • Hard hitting rain events wash debris into storm drains, which is discharged into the rivers and streams
  • Significant amounts of trash and debris wash into waterways from streets, parking lots and the storm drains


DC Water pioneered the skimmer boat cleaning process back in 1992.  The program has been an enormous success, with roughly 400-500 tons of trash removed from the waterways of the District of Columbia every year.

In 2019; 560 tons of debris was collected and removed from the local waterways with the aid of two Aquarius Systems' Trash Hunters.  These 50' long debris skimmer boats feature aluminum cabs with tinted windows, integrated HVAC units and joystick controls.

Debris Skimmer Boat on the Anacostia River

Trash Hunter collecting floating debris

The conveyor/collection system is capable of capturing, storing and off-loading light and heavy manmade floating debris as well as natural debris such as wood and leaves.  The Trash Skimmer's have two crews that patrol over 15-miles of shoreline eight hours a day, five days a week, removing logs, trash and other large objects.

The skimmer boats and the DC Water crew that pilots them and their role is most noticeable after heavy rains when floating trash washes in from stormwater run0ff and sewer overflows.  Crews will also work weekends as needed to clean the river before big events such as the numerous regattas held annually.