The Georgetown Reservoir. Photo by Cliff1066 on Flickr.
Washington, DC has two major open-air reservoirs and several smaller capped ones. Each of these are, however fenced off for security creating dead zones in the city. Instead, D.C. should follow Seattle’s lead and put lids on its reservoirs. This will improve the quality of our water, make our water supply more secure and add acres of public space to the District’s portfolio.
Starting in 2002, Seattle began replacing its uncovered reservoirs with underground facilities that provided greater security and more open space. In addition, covering a reservoir improves water quality.
The program covered or is covering four reservoirs, creating 76 acres of space at a cost of about $150 million. The West Seattle Reservoir, for example, is still undergoing design and the Cal Anderson Park is finished. The cost of these improved reservoirs came out to about $3.25 a month per household.
Washington, DC has three major uncovered reservoirs and at least two of them are perfect for having a lid added.
The 25-acre McMillan Reservoir is located between Howard University and Children’s Hospital in a neighborhood short on green space. Much of what was intended to be the neighborhood’s green space has been walled off inside the Armed Forces Retirement Home. By lidding McMillan Reservoir, the District could add the park space the neighborhood needs. After all, a park where people can gather is a more fitting tribute to James McMillan, the leader of the McMillan plan, than is a fenced off dead zone.
The 40-acre Georgetown Reservoir, while in a neighborhood without the same lack of facilities, presents a unique opportunity based on its location on the escarpment above the Potomac River and the views it would provide.
Dalecarlia Reservoir, being a natural, albeit dammed, basin and straddling the District line is probably not a good candidate for capping.
The District has other, covered reservoirs that are currently fenced off as well, and could be opened up if the water were more securely stored, but the advantages to already covered reservoirs are fewer.
In Seattle, they’ve turned the lids - which won’t support trees - into sports fields and great lawns. They’ve added baseball fields, disc golf courses and soccer fields. The projects included art and water features.
The District could mimic this to help meet the shortage of just about every type of sports and recreation facility you can name. They could build anything from Bocce courts to Volleyball courts. They could add more passive space such as a great lawn with movable, rentable lawn chairs and umbrellas. Small cafe’s could provide constant occupancy to improve security and provide added service.
And of course a buried, lidded reservoir would provided cleaner water, reduce evaporation - requiring fewer reservoirs, and provide more security than the current barbed-wire topped chain link fence.
It’s time DC followed Seattle’s lead and put a lid on it.