James River Association

October 14, 2015

Ryan Corrigan
Director of Marketing & Membership
(804) 928-1601

James River Health Best in Decades
River earns grade of “B-“in James River Association’s State of the James report card

The James River Association’s biennial State of the James report card, a comprehensive assessment of the health of the river, finds the overall health of the James to have improved from a grade of “C+” in 2013 to a “B-“in 2015. This represents a 4% increase over two years, up from 57% to 61% and the first such report to give the river’s health an overall grade in the “B” range.

“Having the grade move into the “B” range is a major milestone and reflects the tremendous progress that has been made since the James was considered one of the most polluted rivers in the nation four decades ago,” said Bill Street, CEO for the James River Association. “This result really highlights the improvements that have resulted from Virginia’s investments in cleaning up its waters, particularly in wastewater pollution controls. The benefits of these investments will ripple throughout not only the river but also the communities along it.”

The State of the James report is designed to examine the status and trends of indicators in four categories – Fish and Wildlife, Habitat, Pollution Reductions, and Protection and Restoration Actions – that are interconnected and build on one another to achieve a healthy James River. Fish and wildlife populations depend on habitat to provide their critical needs for life. The greatest factor affecting the quality of habitat and wildlife in the James River basin is the amount of pollution that enters our waterways, ultimately flowing into the James. Finally, the report assesses progress on the restoration and protection actions needed to reduce damaging pollution and return the James to a healthy, diverse ecosystem. For each indicator, the James River Association has identified and compiled a key measure of river health with quantitative benchmarks having been set for what is needed to achieve a fully healthy river.

Positive findings from the report included a marked improvement in areas where Virginia has made significant investments – particularly with regard to wastewater pollution reductions. Additionally, a consistently healthy population of bald eagles was reported, smallmouth bass populations appear to be experiencing a resurgence in the Upper James, and underwater grasses continue to increase in the tidal tributaries of the river. An indicator that did not fare as well was American shad, with populations which were recorded at an all-time low for the James. And while overall pollution reductions increased to put us on track with meeting the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup goals for the James River, we continue to see slow improvement in sediment pollution reductions as sediment continues to pose the most significant and long-standing threat to the James.

“In order to keep the health of the James River improving, Virginia must strengthen efforts to control agricultural and urban stormwater pollution to the same level of investments it has made for wastewater,” Street continued. “And those are areas where individuals can take actions on their own to help the James and their local streams and creeks.”

The 2015 State of the James report has a new look and feel this year. In the form of an 11×17 poster with a stylized representation of the watershed and color coded indicators, the report is intended to engage more people, as well as be a tool for classrooms. Additionally, the James River Association will be launching an interactive webpage at www.stateofthejames.org featuring more in depth information that was available in previous reports. The poster and the webpage also feature simple actions that citizens can take to help achieve a healthy river.

“The James River is our region’s most valuable natural resource,” said Street. “It is a part of our history and our daily lives. It is up to all of us to protect it for future generations.”

Please note: due to refinements in the scoring, the changes do not necessarily correspond to the scores contained in the 2013 State of the James River report. If changes were made, the same methodology was applied to the data of the previous years.

To learn more about the 2015 State of the James Report, visit www.stateofthejames.org or contact Ryan Corrigan, Director of Marketing & Membership, at rcorrigan@jrava.org or (804) 928-1601.


The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River. Throughout the James River’s 10,000-square mile watershed, the James River Association works through its core programs – Education, Community Conservation, Watershed Restoration, River Advocacy and the Riverkeeper Program – to help people of all ages enjoy, appreciate and protect the beauty and health of the James River for future generations to enjoy. For more information visit www.jamesriverassociation.org.