Blogs > Water Quality > After 50 years of the Clean Water Act, is the Hudson “swimmable”?

After 50 years of the Clean Water Act, is the Hudson “swimmable”?

2022-05-26 Carol Knudson sampling from SeaTow Central Hudson 3 cr Walter Garschagan.JPG

Photo: Walter Garschagan
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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which set national goals of achieving “fishable, swimmable and drinkable” water for our rivers and lakes. For about 15 years, Riverkeeper has assessed our progress toward meeting the “swimmable” goal by measuring water quality in the Hudson and its tributaries.

The data is gathered by community scientists, by Riverkeeper in partnership with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and by dozens of academic and non-profit partners using similar methods.

The results? About 80% of samples taken from the Hudson meet Environmental Protection Agency criteria for safe recreation. If these samples were taken at public beaches, the beach would be open for swimming – which is essential, given that people swim not only at the Hudson’s few public beaches, but at dozens of shoreline access points. In addition, four polar bear swims have already taken place this year, and more than 20 summer swim events will take place in the Hudson and around New York City on more than 40 different days.

Polar Plunge, Peekskill, NY, Photo: Kristen D'Aliso

Polar Plunge, Peekskill, NY, Photo: Kristen D’Aliso

Is 80% good enough? No. Is it better than 50 years ago? Certainly. Many of the Hudson River’s tributaries, and many New York City shoreline locations, are far, far riskier.

What can you do to make it better? Vote for the Clean Air, Clean Water and Green Jobs Bond Act this November to ensure communities have robust state support for these investments. And send a message today to Congress to pass the NY-NJ Watershed Protection Act, which will bring sorely needed new federal investments to our watershed.

These will help provide federal and state funding to help communities meet the $2.4 billion we need for sewage treatment upgrades.

View a presentation on the Clean Water Act at 50, and the Hudson’s Progress.

Find the latest water quality data for the Hudson Estuary, Upper Hudson, New York City, Mohawk River, and many of the Hudson’s tributaries at, as well as reports that describe water quality patterns that help you make informed choices about where and when to get in the water.

This is the latest blog post in our Do People Swim in the Hudson River? series. Follow these links for posts about event swimming, unofficial swimming areas, paddling and how water quality and climate change affect the Hudson’s official bathing beaches.

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