Tuesday, April 16, 2024

James River Watch Monitoring Program Launches for Season

(James River Watch)

RICHMOND — The James River Association kicked off its annual water quality monitoring program on Memorial Day to help keep swimmers, paddlers, and boaters informed about river conditions before they get on the river.

Since 2013, the James River Watch program has released real-time river results to the public on a weekly basis thanks to its volunteers and partners across the watershed.

“We are very excited to continue James River Watch with another year of informing community members about river conditions before they go out to recreate,” said Casey Johnson, Community Engagement/GIS Coordinator for the James River Association (JRA). “I have so much gratitude to our amazing volunteers that help make this program possible.”
JRA said staff has been concerned with the high bacteria levels at two sites in the Williamsburg/James City County region, noting in 2021 and 2022, it worked with the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) to test the water for a marker found in human sewage in an effort to understand why the bacteria levels might be high.
Results showed it was unlikely to be the result of human sewage.  Bacteria sources that are closer to humans are more likely to be a threat to health. In 2023, JRA is again working with HRSD to use environmental DNA (eDNA) to try to identify the source of the high bacteria levels.

(James River Watch)

According to JRA, approximately 120 volunteers will monitor water quality at 38 sites across the watershed from Memorial Day through Labor Day this year.

JRA said it also relies on partnerships with Rivanna Conservation Alliance, American Water, Virginia State University, Virginia Master Naturalist-Peninsula Chapter, Appomattox River Company and Twin River Outfitters to carry out the program.

Volunteers take water samples every Thursday to track measurements of water temperature, air temperature, turbidity (or cloudiness), conductivity (or saltiness) and bacteria. According to JRA, high levels of fecal coliform bacteria can indicate the presence of pathogens harmful to human health, which can affect river user safety.

Those measurements are updated and displayed every Friday via the program’s online platform, which also displays stage and flow readings, as well as predictions compiled in real-time from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and United States Geological Survey stream gauges.

James River Watch’s interactive map acts as a quick and easy reference for river users to determine recent river conditions all in one place, it said. Users can sign up for a weekly newsletter, typically sent on Friday afternoons or evenings, to be alerted to the latest results.

This year, JRA has added two new stations to the River Watch program: one at the Howardsville boat ramp where the Rockfish River meets the James, and one at Deep Bottom Park in Henrico County.

The James River Watch program is partially funded by the Department of Environmental Quality Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Grant Program.

To learn more about James River Watch, visit jamesriverwatch.org, or contact Casey Johnson, JRA’s Community Engagement/GIS Coordinator at lcjohnson@thejamesriver.org.

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