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About the James River

Why Watersheds?

We all live in a watershed.  A watershed is an area of land that drains to a common water body.  The water body can range in size from a small creek to a flowing river.  Watershed boundaries are natural and vary based on differences in geography and hydrology.  Therefore, watersheds do not follow county, city or state boundaries.  Since watersheds know no jurisdictional boundaries, managing our natural resources from a watershed perspective allows us to bring together stakeholders from different localities to focus on a shared resource, our surface water.

Virginia Watersheds
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The James River Watershed

The James River watershed is 10,236 square miles and is the largest river contained within a single state.  The James River watershed covers one quarter of the Commonwealth and includes 57 counties.

James River Watershed Map
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Because of the size and diversity of land use within the James River watershed, the watershed was divided into three sections Upper, Middle and Lower.

The Middle James Watershed

The Middle James watershed extends west to Amherst County, north to Green County, south to Prince Edward County and east to Charles City County.  The Middle James watershed region is approximately 6,190 square miles and is the largest and most diverse portion of the James River watershed.  With the diversity of the Middle James watershed, comes many valuable natural areas, historical areas and resources. 

Middle James Watershed
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How can we help the James River?

There are countless things that we can do to improve water quality in our rivers and streams. There are five examples.

  1. Go Native. Landscape Your Lawn with Native Plants.
  2. Native plants are those plants which have evolved in our region and have adapted to the unique climate, soils and rainfall specific to our region. Many of our native plants are losing habitat or space in which to grow. Planting your garden or landscaping your lawn with native plants not only preserves some of our natural history, it also reduces the amount of time and money you will need to spend on your garden or lawn, the amount of labor and expensive additives.

  3. Save Some $.Use the Right Amount of Fertilizer at the Right Time.
  4. You can save yourself some money by testing the soil in your lawn before purchasing fertilizer. You can also save money by fertilizing at the right time of year when nutrients are needed the most and can be taken up by the plant's root system. Many grasses in Virginia should be fertilized in the fall rather than the spring. Never fertilize before it rains – not only will you be washing the fertilizer away and into our streams but you will also be washing your money away!

  5. See Spot Poop? See Dick and Jane Scoop.
  6. Animal waste may contain harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients that are detrimental to our waterways. If pet waste is not disposed of properly (sealed in a plastic bag and thrown away in the garbage or flushed down the toilet) it can be carried by stormwater into our waterways thus polluting our valuable natural resource. Do yourself a favor – Scoop the Poop!

  7. Only Rain Down the Drain. Water in Storm Drains Goes Untreated to our Rivers.
  8. The water in storm drains is NOT treated before it enters our waterways. Therefore pieces of litter, animal waste, chemicals and motor oil that are dumped in the drain will flow directly to our rivers, which further pollutes our waters. Place your waste in the proper receptacles and recycle what you can!

  9. Spend a Day on the James.
  10. Motivate yourself to help improve water quality in the James River by spending a day on or around the river. Spend a day swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, tubing, writing, sunbathing, hiking, or fishing and pause for a moment to realize how important the resource is that we are trying to protect.


"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world." -- John Muir