Erin Hofmann
Jul 10 · 3 min read

Since 2013, the James River Association has monitored water quality at popular river locations along the James River and its tributaries. 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 near-real time river conditions for boaters, paddlers, and swimmers.

JRA Volunteers gather weekly water samples testing 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.

Powered by the WaterReporter platform, James River Watch is centered around user configurability which ensures the platform can expand as monitoring efforts and needs change. For example, our team designed and implemented feature sets allowing for a Quality Assurance Quality Control (QAQC) workflow where data collected by JRA volunteers awaits review until staff validates its accuracy. Once approved, Water Reporter routes the data to James River Watch for display.

Samples Pending Review

Other notable features include custom form fields as well as configurable thresholds and station cards allowing for flexibility in how data is displayed as it is contributed to the platform.

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.

Monitoring efforts are made possible thanks to a broad network of dedicated volunteers, who have already spent hundreds of hours this summer monitoring the health of the James River and its tributaries. While some are new, some are contributing to James River Watch for their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th season! These “James Changers” help generate the information needed to residents in the watershed enjoy the James safely — we are proud to support these efforts with our technology and look forward to seeing how other programs can benefit from the updates pushed our WaterReporter platform.

Common Syndicate

A collection of environmental policy insights, data journalism, and updates from Chesapeake Commons

Erin Hofmann

Written by

Chesapeake Commons Data Science & Communications lead

Common Syndicate

A collection of environmental policy insights, data journalism, and updates from Chesapeake Commons

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