July 5, 2019

Ben Watson
Staff Scientist
James River Association

James River Watch Provides Local River Conditions in Easy-to-Use Website

The holiday weekend is here, and it is time to enjoy the James! The James River Association urges the public to get outside and enjoy local waterways safely by checking river conditions on James River Watch before swimming or boating adventures.

Since 2013 the James River Association has monitored water quality at popular recreational river locations on the James River and its tributaries. Each weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day, trained volunteers collect water samples at sites frequented by the public for boating and swimming. Results are verified for quality assurance and then uploaded to the James River Association’s James River Watch website – an online resource reporting real-time river conditions for boaters, paddlers, and swimmers. The newly redesigned website, created by Chesapeake Commons, contains data covering the 340-mile length of the James River and its major tributaries.

Weekly water samples test temperature, turbidity (or water cloudiness), and E. coli bacteria. In high concentrations, E. coli can be harmful to human health. Out of the approximately 2,000 bacteria samples collected over the past six years, 85% revealed that the water in the James and its tributaries was safe for recreation. The other 15% of samples showing high levels of bacteria were primarily found after rain events, which can transport bacteria from urban stormwater, agricultural runoff, and other sources.

“Monitoring data demonstrate that bacteria levels increase after rainstorms, and that stronger stormwater controls are needed. To ensure that the James River is protected for swimming, fishing, and boating, we need to strengthen and adequately fund state and local programs to address polluted stormwater runoff from our cities, towns and farms,” said Jamie Brunkow, James Riverkeeper and Senior Advocacy Manager at James River Association.

Everyone can help improve the health of the river by joining the River Hero Home Program and taking simple steps to minimize stormwater pollution at home. Rain gardens, trees and native plants can help soak up stormwater and prevent pollution from entering storm drains and harming local streams and the James River. Individuals can also help the James River Association advance solutions for clean water with elected officials by joining the organization’s Action Network.This year, Action Network volunteers helped the James River Association secure almost $90 million to install conservation practices on Virginia farms and $10 million for Stormwater Local Assistance Fund projects that protect local water quality in communities all across the state. These local and state investments are paying off and over the past 10 years the health of the James River has improved.

“The James River is an amazing resource and a great place to cool off during the summer. The James and other local waterways are safe for swimming and boating the vast majority of the time, but river-goers should use extra caution after heavy rain,” said Ben Watson, Staff Scientist for the James River Association. “The easiest way to ensure a good river trip is to know before you go, and that’s why James River Association created the James River Watch website to educate citizens about river conditions.”

To learn more visit For more information on James River Watch contact Ben Watson, Staff Scientist, at or 804.788.8811, ext 215.  James River Watch Historical Summary Table


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 toward its vision of a fully healthy James River supporting thriving communities. The James River Association believes that “when you change the James, the James changes you.” With offices in Lynchburg, Scottsville, Richmond, and Williamsburg, the James River Association is committed to protecting the James River and connecting people to it.