Environmental Protection

Virginia Has Assessed 95% of Its Watersheds

Virginia's 2008 water quality report, released June 20 by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), provides detailed information on more than 1,100 watersheds in the Commonwealth.

"This report brings the total amount of assessed watersheds in Virginia to 95 percent," said David K. Paylor, agency director. "This is the most complete picture we've ever had of water quality problems in Virginia."

The draft 2008 Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report contains a water quality assessment from January 2001 to December 2006 and the statewide list of impaired waters. The state agency is seeking public comment on the report before it becomes final.

DEQ used a watershed-based assessment approach of 1,247 small watersheds of similar size to enable a meaningful comparison of water quality over time. Every two years, Virginia monitors about one-third of the state's watersheds on a rotating basis, taking six years to complete a full monitoring cycle. This report contains the first six-year assessment of watersheds. The agency has assessed 95 percent – or 1,188 – of 1,247 watersheds since the 2002 report.

Findings include:

• 191 watersheds (15 percent of the total) have no impaired waters identified, meaning water quality supports some or all six designated uses – aquatic life, fish and shellfish consumption, swimming, public water supplies and wildlife.

• 514 watersheds (41 percent) have one or two impaired waters, meaning the waters are affected by pollution or natural conditions.

• 340 watersheds (27 percent) have three to five impaired waters.

• 133 watersheds (11 percent) have six to nine impaired waters.

• 69 watersheds (6 percent) have 10 or more impaired waters.

"As we have seen in past years, we found more waters that qualify as impaired because we are assessing new waters," Paylor said.

Excess bacteria levels are the cause of 57 percent of new impaired waters, followed by low oxygen levels, which account for 18 percent of new impairments.

This year DEQ has added about 1,100 miles of streams and rivers, 3,300 acres of lakes, and less than half a square mile of estuaries to the impaired waters list. The addition of these waters will require Virginia to develop a total of 1,677 cleanup plans when they are added to the previous list of impaired waters.

The draft 2008 water quality report is available at www.deq.virginia.gov/wqa.

Written comments should be sent by July 25 to Darryl M. Glover, DEQ water quality monitoring and assessment manager, or by e-mail attachment at dmglover@deq.virginia.gov or by mail at P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, Va. 23218. All emailed and written comments must include the sender's name, mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address.

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