It’s a question James River Association staff receive all the time. The answer is not always clear for the average person. But as the weather warms and more people are outside enjoying the river, it’s important that communities understand how to stay safe on the water.
One rule of thumb can help tremendously – don’t swim after a rain. E. coli bacteria is a common pollutant that people may encounter in the river after rainstorms. Whether it’s from humans, pets, or farms – stormwater runoff carries fecal waste into our waterways and can pose a significant risk to recreational river users. Higher levels of E. Coli mean a higher presence of pathogens that can make people sick.
Enter the James River Watch.
JRA launched the James River Watch online platform to help update the public with the latest water quality conditions. E. Coli bacteria data is posted each Friday to reveal whether conditions meet state standards for recreational contact. And the website pulls in real time data from multiple sources, presenting when water levels are too high or too low for paddling or swimming. The James River Watch is an easy way to track river conditions and to be safe when planning your river trips.
More than 90 volunteers were trained and certified this year to lead water testing at 26 locations across the watershed. Volunteers are collecting invaluable data to help inform the public about the risks associated with bacteria pollution. In addition to tracking this information, we need your help to tackle the immense challenge of stormwater runoff pollution. There are plenty of small steps citizens can take to reduce pollution – you can commit to planting trees and vegetation at home that will soak up stormwater, or installing a rain barrel, or picking up pet waste. Many in communities along the James River have already made these kinds of commitments as a part of JRA’s River Hero program. These small steps do make a difference.