Water Quality and Agriculture in Shenandoah River Watershed in Virginia are Focus of Report Released in April 2017 by Environmental Integrity Project

On April 26, 2017, the non-profit organization Environmental Integrity Project (headquartered in Washington, D.C., and Austin, Tex.; online at https://www.environmentalintegrity.org/) released a report documenting water quality problems from bacteria and phosphorus in the Shenandoah River watershed in Virginia (counties of Augusta, Page, Rockingham, and Shenandoah); documenting the amount of waste generated in the region by cattle and poultry operations; asserting that waste from agricultural operations in the watershed are largely responsible for the pollution; and asserting the Commonwealth should do more to reduce water-quality impacts from agricultural operations.

The report is available online at https://www.environmentalintegrity.org/news/livestock-pollution-on-shenandoah/.

According to the report’s Executive Summary, the report was based on analysis of pollution management plans for 675 farms, inspection reports in 2014-2016 from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In May 2017, news media reported that some farmers and state regulators were asserting that the report failed to account adequately for efforts being made to reduce impacts on water quality from agricultural operations in the Shenandoah Valley.

Some news media articles about the report and related issues are the following (listed from oldest to newest):
Virginia faulted for handling of cattle pollution in Shenandoah, Bay Journal, 4/26/17.
A billion gallons of liquid cow manure is generated yearly in the Shenandoah Valley, fouling waterways, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/26/17.
Nearly 200 million chickens, turkeys and cows are making a mess of the Shenandoah River, Washington Post, 4/26/17.
Progress is being made on non-point source pollutants, Northern Virginia Daily, 5/11/17.  [Comment by staff person at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District on implementation of stream fencing, nutrient management plans, education, and other activities to reduce the kinds of polluted runoff cited in the report.]
Local farmers, regulators critical of environmental group’s report, Waynesboro News Virginian, 5/14/17.

Virginia Precipitation and Stream Flow for the 7-day Period Ending May 22, 2017, Plus an Overview of Flooding Nationwide

Below are several items summarizing recent precipitation and stream flow:

  1. Images showing precipitation in Virginia and other areas of the United States, and stream flow in Virginia, over the seven-day period ending May 22, 2017 (information available as of May 23).
  2. Flooding overview maps of Virginia and the continental United States, as of May 23.

The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing precipitation and stream-flow information and images.

For the current month’s other weekly reports on stream flow and precipitation, please see the News Grouper posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Virginia+Precipitation.

For monthly reviews of precipitation, stream flow, and drought, please see the posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Monthly+Water+Status.

For more information on current and historical surface-water and groundwater conditions in Virginia, please see the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Virginia Science Center’s Web site, http://va.water.usgs.gov/.

GAGE May 2017 Little River Reservoir at Radford May6 2017

May 2017 Gaging Station of the Month: Little River Reservoir near Radford on the Montgomery County/Pulaski County line, May 6, 2017.  U.S. Geological Survey information from this gage is online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?03170500.


The following two color-coded maps show southeastern U.S. precipitation amounts (top map) and the percent of normal precipitation compared to normal for this period of the year (bottom map) over the seven-day period ending May 22, 2017.  The maps were accessed from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southeast Regional Climate Center, located at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; online at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps.  As of that date, these data were provisional (needing to be verified for accuracy and subject to possible revision).

precip May 22

precip perc May 22

Another source of precipitation data is the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, online at http://water.weather.gov/precip/.  The site provides maps showing precipitation nationwide or by state for specific days, months, or years.  The site also has the capability to show county boundaries, and other map layers available include river flood forecasts and current flood/severe weather warnings.  Shown below is the continental U.S. 7-day precipitation map as of 8 a.m. EDT on 5/22/17.  Please note that UTC, the time shown on the maps at the site, is four hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time and five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Precip US May 22

Stream Flow

Seven-day-average Virginia stream flows at gaging stations as of May 22, 2017 are indicated in the map below, from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) WaterWatch for Virginia, accessed online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?m=pa07d&r=va&w=map.  The map’s color-coded dots compare the previous week’s average stream flows to the normal flow levels for that week over the historical record for each gaging station.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS are as shown in the chart following the map.  Note: Additional gaging stations (such as for reservoirs or for inactive sites) area shown on maps available at the USGS’ National Water Information System Mapper, online at https://maps.waterdata.usgs.gov/mapper/index.html.

streams May22

stream codes

Flooding Overview

As of about 9:30 a.m. EDT on May 23, 2017, 15 stream-gaging stations in or adjacent to Virginia were either experiencing flooding or near flood stage.  The National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Center’s map of river levels relative to flood stage (color-coded) for Virginia and nearby areas is shown below.  Also below is the nationwide map as of the same time.  The maps are available online at http://water.weather.gov/ahps/forecasts.php; at that site, one can select Virginia or any other state of interest.
Flooding VA may23Flooding US May23

Healthy and Safe Swimming Information Sources – May 2017 Edition

Following is a list of information sources for healthy and safe swimming.  This list was published on May 22, 2017, by the Virginia Water Monitoring Council (VWMC), with financial support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Virginia Department of Health .  More information on the VWMC is available online at http://www.VirginiaWMC.org; or contact Jane Walker at vwmc@vt.edu.

Please feel free to re-distribute this information.  If you forward this announcement or post it to your Web site, please let the VWMC know so that the information can be reported it to the funders; to do so, please email: vwmc@vt.edu.

1.) Healthy and Safe Swimming WeekMay 22-28, 2017

The week before Memorial Day marks the thirteenth annual Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. Nationwide, communities will be collaborating and engaging in discussion about how to maximize the health benefits of water-based physical activity while minimizing the risk of recreational water–associated illness and injury. Together, swimmers, aquatics and beach staff, residential pool owners, and public health officials can prevent the spread of germs by following easy and effective healthy swimming steps which can be found at www.SwimHealthyVa.com.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site has promotional materials (brochures, buttons & banners, fact sheets, infographics, podcasts, posters, mobile apps, social media library, stories, and videos) to educate the public on healthy swimming practices.  To learn more, see: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/observances/hss-week/index.html.  (Please see #5 below for more resources from the CDC.)

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is promoting Healthy and Safe Swimming Week and is providing a media and messaging toolkit at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/toolkits/.  A statewide press release will soon be available at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/public-relations-contacts/news-releases/2017-statewide-news-releases/.

2.) Beach Monitoring in Virginia

Bacteria levels in coastal beach water are monitored weekly at 46 public beaches on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean of Virginia during the swimming season (May-September).

Water samples are collected weekly by Local Health Departments and analyzed by local laboratories for enterococci bacteria. If bacteria levels exceed Virginia’s Water Quality Standard of 104 colony forming units (cfu)/100 mL of water, a swimming advisory is issued. Enterococci bacteria serve as an indicator for fecal contamination in salt and brackish waters. These organisms are not harmful themselves, but indicate that other potentially harmful organisms may be present. High levels of enterococci bacteria indicate an increased health risk to recreational water users.

Follow VDH’s Beach Monitoring Program on Twitter to receive a notification for swimming advisories https://twitter.com/VDHBeach.

For information about current swimming advisories and monitored beaches, beach advisory and monitoring data, links to local beaches, local health department contacts, special projects, and our new Coastal Beach Monitoring brochure visit: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/beach-monitoring/.

3.) “Beaches and Bacteria”

This article was updated in January 2014 and is available at https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/beaches-and-bacteria-january-2014-update-of-an-august-2004-virginia-water-central-article/.  It was first published by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Virginia Water Central Newsletter (August 2004).  The article describes:

  • The difference between a beach advisory and a beach closure
  • The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act
  • The types of indicator organisms monitored at Virginia’s beaches
  • Virginia’s bacteria standards
  • Microbial Source Tracking

4.) “Safely Enjoying Virginia’s Natural Waters”

This brochure, published by the Virginia Department of Health, covers topics such as:

  • What organisms are in natural waters and where do they come from?
  • What are the health risks and how are they determined?
  • Why avoid natural water after a heavy rain?
  • What you can do to protect yourself.

Go to http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/content/uploads/sites/12/2016/04/Safely-Enjoy-Natural-Waters_v2.pdf to download a PDF document of the brochure.

5.) More from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Healthy Swimming & Recreational Water web page: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/ — Provides information on the following topics and more:

  • Health Benefits of Water Based Exercise – Chronic Illness, Mental Health, Older Adults
  • Swimmer Protection — Tips for Healthy Swimming, Pool and Hot Tub User Information
  • Recreational Water Illnesses — Germs & Illnesses, Education & Prevention Materials, State Resources
  • Other Recreational Water Issues — Drowning, Injuries, Boating, Sun Protection, Extreme Heat
  • Pools & Hot Tubs — Design, Operation, Disinfection, Regulation
  • Oceans, Lakes, & Rivers — Beach Monitoring, Water Quality Indicators
  • Model Aquatic Health Code — About, The MAHC, Updating, Tools

Natación Saludable — Información en Español — https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/audience-espanol.html.



Lower Chickahominy River Watershed is Subject of Va. Coastal Zone Management Program Request for Proposals Due August 1, 2017

The Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program is seeking proposals from Virginia’s public academic institutions to conduct an analysis of costs and benefits of land conservation and natural resource protection in the lower Chickahominy River watershed.

For a detailed request for proposals document, contact Beth Polak, Coastal Planner, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, phone (804) 698-4260, e-mail: Beth.Polak@deq.virginia.gov.

Proposals are due by August 1, 2017.

Funding for the requested proposals is through Section 309 of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.  Background on the Federal Section 309 Program is available online (as a PDF) at https://coast.noaa.gov/czm/enhancement/media/Sect-309_Guidance_June2014.pdf.

On Virginia Water Radio for 5-22-17: Here Comes Atlantic Tropical Storm Season 2017

Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of May 22, 2017, is “After Arlene’s April Opener, Here Comes Atlantic Tropical Storm Season 2017.”  The 3 min./56 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2017/05/episode-369-5-22-17-after-arlenes-april.html, is the show’s annual preview of the upcoming tropical storm season, with preparedness information.

Photo 2 Arlene from NASA
An early starter for the 2017 Atlantic tropical storm season: Tropical Storm Arlene in the mid-Atlantic on April 21, 2017, 7:45 a.m. EDT.  Puerto Rico is visible in the lower left corner of the photo.  Photo from the GOES-East satellite, NASA/NOAA GOES Project, in “NASA Satellite Animation Shows Tropical Storm Arlene “Eaten” By Weather System,” 4/22/17, online at https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/td1-atlantic-ocean.

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is http://www.virginiawaterradio.org.  Have a listen or two!

Return of a Virginia Environmental Education Resource in May 2017

In May 2017, the Virginia Naturally newsletter returned after a hiatus since September 2016.  Formerly published by the Virginia Office of Environmental Education, the newsletter is now under the direction of the Virginia Association for Environmental Education (VAEE), a non-profit organization.  Information about VAEE and a place to sign up for Virginia Naturally are available online at https://vaee.wildapricot.org/.

Sections of the May 2017 Virginia Naturally are the following:
Virginia Naturally School Recognition Program;
VAEE Announces Dates for 2017 Environmental Education Conference/Call for Proposals (Note: the conference is October 10-12 in Front Royal);
North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) 2017 Conference (Oct. 18-21 in Puerto Rico);
Grants & Awards Opportunities;
Summer Professional Development Opportunities.

Two Fall Conference Opportunities for Virginia Environmental Educators and Science Teachers

Oct. 10-12, 2017, Northern Virginia 4-H Education Center, Front Royal: 2017 Virginia Environmental Education Conference.  Organized by the Virginia Association for Environmental Education.  More information: https://vaee.wildapricot.org/.

Nov. 16-18, 2017, Roanoke: Virginia Association of Science Teachers Annual Professional Development Institute.  This year’s theme is “Celebrating Science.”  More information: https://vast.wildapricot.org/; phone: (757) 897-3104; e-mail: communications@vast.org.