Some of the information for this post was provided by the Virginia Water Monitoring Council (VWMC). More information about the VWMC is available online at http://www.vwmc.vwrrc.vt.edu/.
On August 7, 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released for public comment the draft 2016 report on water quality in the Virginia’s streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries. The draft report, referred to as the 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report (the numbers refer to relevant sections of the federal Clean Water Act) is available online at http://deq.state.va.us/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityAssessments/2016305b303dIntegratedReport.aspx (as of 8/15/17). The Clean Water Act requires such a report every two years. The 2016 report includes assessments of conditions in Virginia’s waters based on data gathered from January 1, 2009, through December 31, 2014.
According to the draft 2016 report’s Executive Summary, the report assesses the Commonwealth’s water quality based on data from DEQ staff monitoring at 4025 monitoring stations plus data from over 100 citizen groups and other government agencies. The report’s assessments cover about 7,177 stream miles (23 percent of the state total), 20,318 lake/reservoir acres (97 percent of the state total), and 315 estuary square miles (97.5 percent of the state total).
According to page 4 of the draft report’s Introduction, every two years on a rotating basis, Virginia monitors about one third of the state’s “sub-watersheds” (small drainage areas that combine to form larger river basins), taking six years to complete a full monitoring cycle.
The report describes conditions overall and lists “impaired” water bodies; that is, those that do not meet state water-quality standards and do not support the public uses designated for the water bodies (aquatic life, fish consumption, public water supplies [where applicable], recreation [swimming], shellfishing, and wildlife). Such waters usually require a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study and implementation plan.
Here are two key findings from the draft 2016 report, according to the Executive Summary. The numbers given below are subject to revision following public comment and review by the U.S. EPA.
1) Impaired waters now include 15,713 miles of rivers and streams (about 16 percent of the total stream miles in Virginia); 93,508 acres of lakes and reservoirs (about 80 percent of Virginia’s total), and 2,132 square miles of estuaries (about 75 percent of Virginia’s total).
2) Compared to the last biennial report (2014, based on data from 2007-2012), the 2016 draft report shows increased in the number of streams, lake/reservoir acres, and estuary square miles that are not impaired. Click here for the 2014 biennial report: http://deq.state.va.us/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityAssessments/2014305(b)303(d)IntegratedReport.aspx.
The draft report is undergoing a public-comment period until September 6, 2017; written comments on the draft report can be sent to Sandra Mueller, Va. DEQ, Office of Water Monitoring and Assessment, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, Virginia 23218; phone (804) 698-4324; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A public webinar on the draft report will be held August 24, 2017, 10 a.m. EDT Submitted questions will be addressed and posted in a document on the DEQ Web site. Registration for the webinar is available at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8931096941103573505.