All Virginians need clean water to live and thrive. But too many households throughout the Commonwealth suffer from failing septic systems or rising utility bills to fix outdated sewer systems. And when our wastewater infrastructure fails, it can be a serious problem for our rivers, our public health, and the businesses that rely on healthy waterways. 

This month, Virginia’s General Assembly headed back to Richmond to allocate $4.3 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to help the Commonwealth recover from the impacts of the COVID pandemic. This funding was a historic opportunity to invest in one-time projects that will make a big difference for the health of our communities and the James River.

With the help of our RiverReps and Action Network volunteers, we successfully encouraged Virginia’s lawmakers to invest in modernized clean water systems that keep Virginians safe from polluted water and localized flooding. In total, Governor Northam and the General Assembly dedicated $411 million for clean water projects over the next three years:

  • $125M for fixing combined sewer systems, including those in Richmond and Lynchburg, which continue to release untreated sewage into the James River during heavy rain events.  Richmond will receive $50M towards an estimated $883M in total need, while Lynchburg will receive $25M, half of the city’s remaining costs. 
  • $100M to upgrade outdated technology at wastewater treatment plants throughout Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay watershed, particularly along the James River.
  • $11.5M to help low-income households with outhouses or failing septic systems get adequate septic treatment.
  • $75M to support the Department of Environmental Quality’s work to repair, replace and upgrade septic, straight pipe, and sewer collection systems.
  • $100M to support equal access to drinking water at small and disadvantaged community waterworks.  

These are much-needed investments in the future of clean water and healthy, thriving communities — but the work continues. The 2022 General Assembly is just around the corner, and Virginia’s newly elected Governor will work with the General Assembly on a brand new two-year budget bill. It’s important that these drinking water and wastewater infrastructure investments are matched by equally bold actions to address other major sources of pollution to our rivers and streams: stormwater and agricultural runoff. 

Want to help us keep making a difference for clean water at the General Assembly?

Sign up for JRA Action Alerts or register for our next RiverReps training!