Water Resources Protection Program

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What is the Water Resources Protection Program?

The City has been working hard to develop solutions to address increasingly stringent stormwater regulations and manage the City's water resources.  A Water Resources Protection Program (WRPP) is being implemented to address these challenges in an economically practicable and sustainable manner. The WRPP is designed to comply with federal and state stormwater regulations, rehabilitate the City's aging stormwater system, address drainage and flooding problems, and pursue environmental stewardship. 


CLICK HERE to find out more about the Stormwater Utility, which provides dedicated funding to the WRPP. 


What is Stormwater Runoff, and Why is it Important?

Stormwater runoff is rain or snowmelt that flows over the ground and into the City's stormwater system or directly into creeks and streams.

As this runoff flows, it can pick up and transport harmful pollutants such as oils and greases, heavy metals, pesticides, fertilizers, trash and debris, sediment, and animal wastes.


Our storm drains do not connect to water treatment facilities, but rather drain untreated into local waterways.   Pollutants are carried along with stormwater runoff into our creeks, streams, and the Rivanna River.

As a result, contaminated stormwater runoff is a major source of pollution to our local waterways. Excessive contamination of runoff causes sedimentation of our streams, water quality degradation, and unhealthy water conditions for humans and wildlife.

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Fishing Trip PSA

PSA Link

Click here to view a Public Service Announcement the City created to illustrate stormwater's journey


Impervious Cover, Stormwater Runoff, and Stream Health

The biggest influencing factor on stormwater runoff is the presence of impervious surfaces, which are any surface coverings that do not absorb water, including roads, roofs, and parking lots. In urban environments such as Charlottesville, large areas are covered with impervious surfaces.

There are almost 99 million square feet
of impervious surface in the City.

That is enough to cover over 1,700 football fields!


As a result, water cannot soak into the ground, and instead drains into the stormwater system, and then our creeks and rivers, much faster then it naturally would. This rapid drainage, along with the increased quantity of runoff results in high peak flows in waterways during storms, causing severe erosion of stream banks, scouring of stream beds, excessive sedimentation, and flooding.

Sediment loading is recognized as one of the greatest threats to the Rivanna River and the Chesapeake Bay; sediment carries pollutants that have bonded to it into waterways, suspends in the water column and blocks sunlight from aiding in the growth of aquatic vegetation, clogs the gills of fish (sometimes suffocating them) and eventually destroys aquatic habitat in streambeds when it settles. Impervious cover also prevents stormwater from infiltrating into the ground and recharging the groundwater supply. This leads to small creeks and streams drying up during prolonged periods of dry weather, contributing to drought conditions.

Rivanna Bay Graphic


What is a Watershed?

A watershed is an area of land where all water drains into a common waterway, be it a stream, river, lake, wetland, estuary, or even the ocean.

Since all water runs downhill due to the force of gravity, watershed boundaries are typically comprised of ridgetops or high elevation areas. A watershed can be very large and can cover several states. For example, the Chesapeake Bay watershed encompasses over 64,000 square miles, and consists of parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware and Virginia.

Watersheds can also be very small, encompassing a few small streams or wetland areas. Charlottesville lies in the Rivanna River watershed, which is a medium sized watershed, encompassing 766 square miles. The Rivanna River watershed is nested within the James River watershed, which lies within the even larger Chesapeake Bay watershed (pictured at left).


For more information on your local watershed, the Rivanna River watershed, visit the Rivanna Conservation Alliance (RCA).



Where does our Stormwater Drain?

Stormwater in Charlottesville flows from smaller creeks such as Rock Creek, Schenks Branch, Lodge Creek, and Pollocks Branch, into larger creeks like Moores Creek and Meadow Creek, and eventually into the Rivanna River.  Click here to view a map of the City's local waterways, of which there are over 45 miles.

From the Rivanna River, water flows into the Middle James, or Piedmont Region, of the James RiverThe James River then takes our water to the Chesapeake Bay. Finally, the water from the Bay ends up in the Atlantic Ocean.


There are over 50 miles of underground stormwater pipes and over 4,000 stormwater structures in the City's system.

Sanitary sewage flows to the wastewater treatment plant, while stormwater drains untreated, directly into local surface waters.


Storm Drain Diagram

Charlottesville’s Stormwater System and Stormwater Management Program

Charlottesville has a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4). This means that stormwater and sanitary sewage are completely separated.

The City's stormwater conveyance system is made up of storm drains, curbs, gutters, ditches, man-made channels, and streams that are connected by a network of underground pipes. 

Since our stormwater system drains to surface waters, Charlottesville is required to develop a stormwater management program under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Stormwater Phase II regulations. Since March 2003, the City is covered by the Virginia General Permit for Discharges of Stormwater from Small Municipal Storm Sewer Systems (MS4 Permit). There are six key elements of the stormwater management program; the key elements are addressed through the development and implementation of best management practices (BMPs) and will lead to water quality improvements through the reduction of pollutants to the maximum extent practicable. 

To view the City's MS4 Program Plan (stormwater management program), please click here.  To view the City's Permit Year 1 MS4 Annual Report to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, please click here.  To view the City's Chesapeake Bay TMDL Action Plan, please click here.  To view the City's Rivanna River TMDL Action Plan, please click here.  If you have any questions or comments, please email stormwater@charlottesville.org.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Green stormwater infrastructure utilizes plants, trees, and other measures to mimic natural processes that control and treat stormwater before it enters creeks, streams, and rivers.  Green stormwater infrastructure includes practices such as vegetated roofs, bioretention, tree planting, permeable pavement, and rainwater harvesting that aim to intercept, evaporate, transpire, filter, infiltrate, capture, and reuse stormwater.

Some examples of green stormwater infrastructure projects completed by the City include the Meadow Creek stream restoration, the vegetated green roof on City Hall, the bioretention filter at Charlottesville High School, and the constructed wetlands in Azalea Park.  Check out the CityGreen Map to see these and many more examples!

Adopt-A-Stream Program

Picture of StreamThe City administers a formal Adopt-A-Stream program for citizens who wish to dedicate their efforts to beautifying a particular stretch of stream. By participating in the Adopt-A-Stream program you will be acting as a community steward of the environment and promoting vital water quality improvements. For more information on the Adopt-a-Stream Program, please read these documents:


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Rivanna Stormwater Education Partnership

The City is a member of the Rivanna Stormwater Education Partnership (RSEP). The purpose of this partnership is to coordinate a regional effort to address common stormwater program elements of public education, outreach, involvement, and participation. 



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 Have You ever thought of volunteering to improve water quality?

- Monitor water quality with the
Rivanna Conservation Alliance

- Organize a stream clean-up or adopt a stream - email for more information  

 Pollution Prevention Hotline: To report an environmental incident or concern, illegal dumping, an illicit discharge to the stormwater system or a stream, improper disposal, spills, or complaints regarding land disturbing activities please E-mail the City of Charlottesville Environmental Sustainability Division.


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