Fairfax County, the most populous county in Virginia, has a surprising number of healthy streams. More than 15 percent of the streams evaluated were identified through the INSTAR application as ecologically healthy.
Why? How? It can partly be explained by county action that resulted in the adoption of land-use restriction measures and stringent water quality requirements over 20 years ago to protect and clean up surface water resources.
Another factor is the Upper Occoquan Sewage Authority (UOSA), an advanced regional sewage treatment facility that opened in 1978 and eliminated 11 major sources of pollution from older sewage treatment plants.
Fairfax County was an early adopter of best management practices for controlling nonpoint source pollution from stormwater runoff. As a result the county succeeded in reducing phosphorus levels from new development in the Occoquan watershed by 50 percent and elsewhere in the county by 40 percent.
Fairfax County works closely with the public to educate them about water quality. The county supports stream clean-ups and runs advertisements that encourage actions to protect water resources. Each of the county's watershed planning projects has an advisory group of private and public local stakeholders who provide input on plans for their areas. These activities, as well as others, are supported by country real estate taxes that generate an average of about $20 million a year.
Click here to view the complete story about Fairfax County's efforts to protect their local waters in the Healthy Waters book.
"These tools are easily incorporated into other activities, such as comprehensive plans and zoning. The only thing a locality would change would be to take these healthy resources into consideration when planning. …To protect our healthy waters is more cost effective than trying to correct mistakes later on." Bill Street, executive director, James River Association