Washington Canal Park

Washington, DC
Key Elements
  • Stormwater reuse and green infrastructure design
  • SITES Three Star certified
  • LEED Gold 

Located between Capitol Hill and the Anacostia River, the three-acre Washington Canal Park covers three city blocks in the southeast quadrant of Washington, DC. The Capital Riverfront neighborhood that surrounds the park site had been undergoing major redevelopment, and the development of a public park on three parcels that were once a component of the Washington Canal system helps unite the surrounding areas. 

The sustainable management of water was one of the primary objectives of the Washington Canal Park project. The goal was to include water both as a key symbolic element, as well as a functional and sustainable element. In collaboration with an interdisciplinary team, Nitsch accomplished this by incorporating appropriate sustainable solutions that value rainwater as a resource. 

Nitsch conceptualized collecting rainfall runoff from the site and pavilion roofs, and storing the water in underground cisterns to be reused within the park for landscape irrigation, toilets and urinals, and the ice skating rink and fountains. Using our proprietary RainUSE™ Software, we estimated that the water demands of the park exceed the amount of rainwater that can be collected on-site. We therefore evaluated the benefits of capturing future off-site building roof runoff from neighboring development parcels on the stormwater reuse system’s ability to meet the water demands of the park. As a result of Nitsch’s assessments, stormwater pipes installed in adjacent streets allow neighboring buildings to send roof runoff into the Canal Park cisterns, creating a neighborhood-scale stormwater management system. This visionary approach to stormwater management demonstrates a unique partnership between public and private entities to implement green infrastructure at a neighborhood scale. 

Stormwater runoff collected from the park’s ground surfaces are being treated through linear rain gardens, which provide a visual amenity and a recreational and educational opportunity for Park visitors. Once treated, the ground-level runoff and screened roof runoff will be retained in cisterns and reused on-site. Tree box filters are also being used to treat stormwater runoff from streets adjacent to the park. 

Nitsch encouraged the Washington Canal Park project be submitted as a pilot project for SITES certification under the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SSI). The project earned SITES Three Star certification, as well as LEED Gold Certification.

Key Collaborators  

Owner: District of Columbia 
Landscape Architect: OLIN 
Architect: STUDIOS Architecture 
MEP Engineer: Loring Engineers 
Sustainability Consultant: Atelier Ten 
Structural Engineer: SK&A Structural Engineers, PLLC