Impaired Streams

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Major streams across the state of Virginia are monitored periodically by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and an extensive network of volunteers.  In the Piedmont region, the most common water quality impairment is bacterial levels that frequently surpass national standards.  Over 30 stream segments in Fauquier County have been found to be among those with this impairment (see picture below - impaired segments are in red).  

Fauquier County Impaired Streams

If you would like to know if you live in an impaired watershed, please contact John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District at 540-347-3120 x3.


What types of bacteria are monitored?

Most of the rivers and streams in the TMDL program are monitored for fecal coliform bacteria.  This bacteria originates from the intestines of warm-blooded animals such as humans, livestock, and wildlife.  Higher levels of fecal coliform bacteria in impaired waters may indicate the presence of dangerous viral and bacterial pathogens.  For more information on monitoring efforts, check out the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Quality Monitoring Programs.

What is a TMDL?

The District's work under the TMDL Program in two sub-watersheds of the Rappahannock River: Thumb Run and Carter Run, ended at the end of December 2016.  Efforts are under way for the District to start work in the Upper Goose Creek Watershed in the Potomac River basin in the next couple of years.

TMDL or Total Maximum Daily Load is the maximum amount of pollutant a water body can assimilate without surpassing the state water quality standard.  The term is also used in reference to restoration plans that are developed for specific surface waters.  If a body of water surpasses the water quality standard 10.5% of the time during an assessment period, the water body is placed on Virginia’s Section 303(d) List of Impaired Waters.  Several factors such as degree of impairment, drainage basin size, financial resources and historic community involvement are considered when determining if an impaired stream becomes part of the official TMDL program effort.

What is a TMDL implementation plan?

The TMDL implementation process included studies to determine the potential sources of bacteria such as livestock, humans, pets, and wildlife.  Specific strategies to reduce pollutants reaching impaired waters were identified.  Citizen input was emphasized during the developmental phase of the TMDL process.  Public meetings were held to inform constituents and work groups were established to provide guidance, seek input and address concerns.


TMDL CowsWhat steps must be taken to meet water quality standards in the impacted watersheds?

The TMDL implementation plan outlines several methods to meet bacterial water quality standards.  Methods include:

  • Excluding of most/all livestock from streams
  • Reducing non-point source loads on pasture and cropland in the watersheds
  • Identifying and correcting all straight pipes and failing septic systems
  • Reducing pet bacteria loads on residential land
  • Reducing wildlife bacteria loads


What is John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District’s role in the TMDL Implementation Plan?

Through a grant agreement with Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, John Marshall SWCD is responsible for enacting a public relations campaign to increase awareness of TMDL implementation goals.  The District is also responsible for administering financial assistance to farmers and homeowners for conservation practices in designated areas.

What Progress Has Been Made?

Outreach and Education:

  • Outreach efforts included news articles, a series of mailings to landowners in the TMDL watersheds, and presentations to community organizations and school and youth groups.
  • The District also hosted Twilight Farm Dinners and Tours and public information nights to provide landowners with an opportunity to view installed BMPs, and speak with contractors and past participants
  • Several pasture management programs, for both cattle and horse harms, were held.

Installation of Agricultural Conservation Practices:

  • By June 2015, 143 agricultural projects were completed in the target watersheds
  • Over 68 miles of stream bank was protected
  • Over 220 acres was converted from cropland to permanent vegetative cover
  • Over $1 Million in TMDL cost-share funds was expended to the benefit of the local economy

What are the financial incentives to participating in the TMDL program?

Federal and State Best Management Practice (BMP) Cost-Share programs pay between 50-85% of the cost to install agricultural conservation practices to improve water quality.


How else are water quality issues being addressed in Fauquier County’s TMDL areas?

“It’s Your Doodie!” is an awareness campaign promoting the proper management of pet waste which is being conducted region wide.  For more information, visit the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission website.


To learn more about TMDL efforts in Fauquier County, contact Kris Jarvis with the John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District at 540-316-6525.


The District’s efforts with the Carter Run TMDL were featured in February 2014 by the US EPA.  Read about the success here: Carter Run Watershed Success Story.