VIRGINIA (WVEC) -- The James River health has improved 10 points in the past 10 years.
According to the James River Association's biennial State of the James report, the river earned a B- rating in 2017. The overall score for the river rose to 62 percent, which represents an increase of 10 points since the report was first published in 2007.
Since the last report in 2015 the score increased from 59 percent, or a C ranking.
"Increasing 10 points in 10 years shows that our collective commitment and investments in water quality are really paying off," said Bill Street, CEO for the James River Association. "Improvements can be seen not only in the health of the river, but also in the benefits that the river provides to the surrounding communities in terms of drinking water, quality of life and economic opportunities."
The report is designed to examine four categories, Fish and Wildlife, Habitat, Pollution Reductions, and Protection and Restoration Actions. The largest factor affecting the quality of habitat in the James River is the amount of pollution that enters the waterway.
The 2017 scores for the categories are as follows:
- Fish and Wildlife- 66%
- Habitat- 61%
- Pollution Reductions- 56%
- Protection and Restoration Actions- 65%
There are 19 indicators in the report that assess what action is needed to reduce pollution in the river. In total, 14 showed improvement over the past two years, 3 remained the same and 2 declined.
According to the report, strong improvements were made in made in smallmouth bass and oysters, as well as tidal water quality. Improvements were most visible in areas where Virginia has made significant investments. Water pollution controls greatly improved, reaching 118 percent of Virginia's goal.
An area of concern in the report is the one-year decline of underwater grasses. The past two decades the grasses have been steadily expanding, but the decline is being investigated.
For the first time, bacteria pollution reductions were included in the report to reflect swimming and recreation conditions. This area did not show improvement.
"As Virginia's largest source of drinking water, the James River is a part of all us. We all have a stake in its future," Street said. "We all must do our part and Virginia must continue to make the necessary investments to fulfill its responsibilities for clean water and to achieve a fully healthy James River."
Finally, the report featured indicators that show how a healthy James River supports surrounding communities. The James River provides 2.7 million people with drinking water, Virginia's largest source. The indicators highlight vital necessities to every day life like drinking water, information on outdoor recreation, and the total economic value of the benefits beyond the James River.
"The James River is a major driver for businesses and the economy across the state," said Dennis Treacy, Chairman of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. "The improvements reflected in the 2017 State of the James report are encouraging because a healthy local environment is important to a healthy local economy. The James River not only supports transportation, commerce and industry, but also enhances our quality of life that draws tourism, attracts skilled workers and spurs new businesses."
The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization that was founded in 1977. Their mission is to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River.
For more information about the report, click HERE.
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