Image: Riverkeeper, Inc


Water Quality

Fishable, swimmable waters

SWIM supports common sense solutions to improve water quality in New York City, year-round. That means:

green infrastructure
& Conservation
(using stormwater as a resource)
gray infrastructure
(increasing system capacity)
reliance on end-of-pipe remedies
(like chlorine disinfection)
Clean Water Regulations 101

To assess water quality, regulators measure two things: fecal indicator bacteria, which are often present when disease-causing pathogens found in sewage are present; and dissolved oxygen, which can be depleted by sewage and other pollutants, but which is essential for the survival of fish and other wildlife.

Water Quality Standards are the foundation of the US Clean Water Act (CWA), passed in 1972 to reverse the steep decline of the nation’s waterways. Unfortunately, its interim goal of “fishable, swimmable” waters, which required surface waters be capable of supporting activities and propagation of fish and wildlife by 1983, has been a failure. Today, beach advisories prevent us from swimming on the hottest summer days. “Warning! Don’t eat the fish!” signs are still a regular site. Emerging contaminants like pharmaceuticals, nanoparticles, and personal care products are altering old perceptions of pollution sources. Our inadequate municipal infrastructure contributes devastating quantities of pollution.


This crisis calls for investment and innovation. For more on water quality, see our Water Steward Guide.

Creating Water Quality Goals for
your Community

Every neighborhood should establish water quality goals.

  • Do you want to be able to swim?

  • Do you want fish and wildlife to thrive?

  • Do you want environmental programs to be conducted in or near your waterway?


Check out which of our member organizations are working in your community and establish a unified vision with your neighbors.

Major sources of
water pollution include

Untreated sewage from combined sewer overflows

Stormwater runoff from separate sewers or direct drainage

Illegal dumping into the waterbody

Connected waterbodies upstream

Animal waste from birds and pets

Illegal sewer connections, when homes and developments are accidentally or intentionally connected to a storm sewer instead of a sanitary sewer


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SWIM Coalition is sponsored by the NYC Soil & Water Conservation District and Riverkeeper, Inc. Your donations to SWIM's work are tax deductible under the IRS code170(c)3. 

Donations to SWIM are managed by Riverkeeper, Inc.