Watershed Protection


Map of Our Watershed

Map of Our Watershed

Our Watershed

A watershed can be thought of as a bathtub. All the water located within the bathtub will eventually move toward the drain. The same process happens in a watershed: all water from higher elevations drains to the bottom of the watershed.  Above is a map of our watershed here in Albemarle County showing the major rivers and the sub-watershed borders.

Water supply resources for the region include five reservoir impoundments and two river intakes. The South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir, Beaver Creek Reservoir, and Sugar Hollow Reservoir are located in the South Fork Rivanna River watershed. Ragged Mountain Reservoir is located in the Moores Creek and Rivanna River watershed. The Totier Creek Reservoir is located in the James River watershed. Intake structures are located on the North Fork Rivanna River and on Totier Creek.

These reservoirs and river intake provide the raw water that is then treated at 5 water treatment plants for potable water uses in the service area.

Cross Section of a Watershed

Cross section of a watershed (EPA.gov)

Cross section of a watershed (EPA.gov)

Water enters the reservoir through precipitation. Unfortunately, any contaminants that may be located on the land within the watershed, like fertilizers, may be carried through overland runoff or transported via groundwater to the reservoir. The EPA calls these nonpoint sources of pollutants.

There are many practices that can be used to minimize the input of nutrients and other pollutants to a reservoir. Did you know that planting a tree buffer on your property adjacent to a waterway provides a filter to pollutants flowing into streams? Minimizing the use of fertilizers on your property is another way that you can help reduce nonpoint source pollution.

Keeping our watershed clean

Proper stewardship of our watershed requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.  Every landowner shares a role in keeping the watershed clean.  Here’s what various organizations are doing and how businesses, landowners, and residents can do their part.

Reservoir Management Study Now in Progress

In 2015 Rivanna contracted with Dinatale Water Consultants of Boulder, Colorado to conduct a reservoir assessment and recommend options for managing reservoir water quality.  Intensive water quality monitoring is being conducted on our reservoirs by RWSA staff to provide data for this study. Results are expected to be available Spring 2016.

Regional Organizations

The Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District has as its current focus, to control and prevent non-point source pollution. Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. They do this through technical assistance programs to citizens and local governments, financial assistance to landowners, and educational programs. The many programs of the TJSWCD can be reviewed on their website. http://www.tjswcd.org/

We support the work of the Rivanna Stormwater Education Partnership, which is a collaborative effort among the local entities that hold stormwater permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program like us. These permits relate to the operation of municipal storm sewer systems and require the permit holders to achieve numerous goals related to education, outreach and public participation in stormwater management. Regulatory authority for the program falls under the Virginia State Water Control Board under the oversight of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Albemarle County

In Albemarle County, there is a Water Protection Ordinance that requires that vegetated buffers be preserved or established along most County water bodies and limits the activities that can occur within those buffers. The vegetation helps to filter non-point source pollutants from entering the water body. In general, 100 foot buffers are required along streams in the County. Adjacent to a water supply reservoir the buffer requirement is 200 feet. These buffers provide a filter for stormwater runoff and minimize erosion. A full description of Albemarle County’s stream buffer requirements associated with the Water Protection Ordinance can be found by clicking this link: http://www.albemarle.org/department.asp?department=water&relpage=2979

If you have questions regarding how to minimize water quality impacts on property that you own adjacent to one of the five RWSA reservoirs, or would like to report a buffer violation, please contact the Natural Resources Manager in the Department of Community Development at 434-296-5832.

For other water-related issues or questions, Albemarle County residents can visit www.albemarle.org/water or the staff contact page

City of Charlottesville

City residents can visit the City of Charlottesville’s Stormwater page.

Local Non-Profits

The Rivanna Conservation Alliance is a local non-profit dedicated to the health of our streams.  RCA provides education, river clean-ups, and other river stewardship activities and scientific monitoring of our local waterways.

To report a problem in our watershed, like storm drain dumping or stream pollution, go to the Rivanna Stormwater Education Partnership or call 434-975-0224.