Happy National Water Quality Month!  The James River Association has worked to improve the health of the James River since 1976, when the James was considered one of the most polluted rivers in the country. Since then, the river’s health has increased remarkably, making the James River arguably one of the most improved rivers in the nation, and has been consistently rated as the healthiest major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay by the University of Maryland.

This month we are celebrating all of the work that has been done to improve the health of the James, and for National Water Quality month, we asked a few volunteers to share their motivation to volunteer and their connection to the James.

Here is Richard Schauffler, long-time volunteer for the James River Watch program, our Education program and River Hero Home Member in James City County. 

What inspired you to volunteer to monitor water quality?

My house backs up to Shellbank Creek, which feeds into the James. I can literally see the runoff from our neighborhood zip by my house and down into the creek (no retention ponds were required when the neighborhood was developed). My neighborhood includes a shared beach and marina on the James. Folklore exists about whether and when it is safe to swim at our neighborhood beach, so having the opportunity to contribute data and educate neighbors about using it was the perfect way to help us enjoy the river more and contribute to its improving health.

What is your favorite thing about the river?

I sail on the river, both in my own small boat and as a member of the volunteer crew on the historic ships at the Jamestown Settlement museum. Being out on the water brings a sense of calm and an appreciation of the birds and other wildlife that the river supports.

Are you involved with JRA in any other ways?

I tore out my lawn and other landscaping and created an extensive native garden, and have been a River Hero Home for many years. I also started volunteering as a deckhand on Longview, assisting with the educational trips taking kids out on the James.

Our thanks go out to our partners, donors, members and volunteers across Virginia who have been working alongside us in our four decades of work.