RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia's waterways are one of its most prized natural resources -- from the water you drink, to the water where you swim.
Now, a new state report indicates that more of our natural sources of water are polluted.
The James River is a popular place for swimming and fishing and just one of hundreds of waterways closely monitored for quality.
Overall, the news across the state is good. While most waters are fine, it's important you stay aware of pollution issues in your local community.
We do know that after a heavy rain, pollution does wash into the James River and some of the creeks that flow into the river, so we know there are these pollution issues in various stages around the area and we do encourage people to be aware of what they are.
The water quality report comes out every two years and now maps almost the entire Commonwealth. While pollution continues to be a problem, it's not all bad news.
"It's a matter of the more we look around at different parts of the state, the more pollution we do find," said Bill Hayden of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. "But we're also finding that a lot of waters are becoming cleaner, they're not, the total list of polluted waters is not growing as much as it had been."
The DEQ has a specific clean-up plan. It's a long term process that requires them to study the water, find out what the pollution is, where it is coming from, and then figure out a way to stop it."
The two most common problems are bacterial pollution and nutrient runoff.
Bacterial pollution comes mainly from animals living near waterways and can cause illness in people.
Nutrient runoff can create low oxygen levels, making it hard for aquatic life to survive.
While the state is working hard, cleaning up Virginia waterways isn't just a government problem -- it's up to us too.
"If it's a matter of cleaning up after your pet or avoiding runoff pollution from your land, those kinds of things can go a long way to help solve our problems," Hayden said.
DEQ said efforts to maintain the health of Virginia's waterways has been very successful, and that hundreds of other projects are in the works.
To learn more about water quality near you, follow link to the Department of Environmental Quality website listed at right.