Water Resources Program  |  Water Resources Program

As described in the History, Albemarle County has a strong water resources program. However, recent Federal and State rules have escalated the requirements for local water resources protection. Many of Albemarle County’s water resource programs have been recently expanded to comply with these new mandates. The County also operates local programs identified as priorities by the Board of Supervisors, described below.

Required Programs

As part of State and regional efforts to address stormwater pollution and impaired waters, the County is required to implement the following new or enhanced programs. Compliance with each of these programs required significant new resources.

Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP)

Like most local governments in Virginia, beginning July 1, 2014, the County was required to adopt and implement a local VSMP consistent with State regulations. To comply, the County expanded its program for regulating development and other land disturbing activities and incorporated more stringent stormwater management regulations into the Water Protection Ordinance.


Erosion and Sediment Control

Ensure that land-disturbing activities provide runoff control and measures to minimize the amount of soil erosion.

Stormwater Management for New Development

Ensure that development provides measures, such as permanent stormwater management facilities, to control the discharge of runoff and minimize the amount of pollutants discharging to natural waters.

Plan Review, Permits, and Inspections

Enforcement of the Erosion, Sediment Control and Stormwater Management programs is accomplished through the plan review, permit, and inspection processes.

Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit update

The County has been required to maintain a MS4 permit since 2003, under a federal program called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The program is intended to reduce water pollution into waters of the United States by regulating the discharge of pollutants. Permits are issued in five-year increments. The most recent version of the permit, issued in 2013, included additional implementation and tracking responsibilities, including developing a program to address stream impairments through a process called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).

A TMDL is a measure of the amount of pollution that a body of water can receive each day without degrading water quality. For instance, Meadow Creek is impaired due to excessive sediment and the sediment TMDL was identified as 1,346 tons per year – so for years where sediment is below 1,346 tons, the Meadow Creek’s water quality will not be negatively impacted, but in years where tons of sediment exceeds 1,346 tons, the Meadow Creek will be considered impaired. TMDL is also used to describe the entire process through which an impaired stream is cleaned up. Bodies of water that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired (you can find out more about this under the “Water Quality” tab).   

Unlike a typical city, Albemarle County doesn't own a traditional storm sewer system - a connected network of storm pipes, inlets, channels and culverts that carry stormwater. Under NPDES, the County is, nonetheless, considered the "operator" of a municipal separate strom sewer system, or an MS4. Other local MS4s include Charlottesville, UVA, PVCC, and VDOT. While private landowners are generally responsible for any stormwater management facility on their property, the County is responsible for conveyance infrastructure located within public easements.

Chesapeake Bay TMDL – By July 1, 2015, Albemarle County must develop a detailed action plan to reduce the amounts of phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment to urban waters to assist in the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. The action plan must include a detailed accounting of the necessary reductions for each pollutant and a listing of past or proposed projects and programs that will bring about the reductions.

Local TMDLs - By July 1, 2016, the County must develop action plans for any local TMDLs that have associated load reduction allocations; this includes an E. coli reduction for the Rivanna River and some of its tributaries and a sediment reduction for the Rivanna River


Capital Improvement Projects

This includes watershed planning and the design and construction of new or enhanced stormwater management facilities or stream restoration projects to address TMDLs.

Stormwater Management Facility Maintenance

Inspecting privately-owned facilities and working with property owners to ensure proper ongoing operation and maintenance.

Infrastructure Maintenance

Properly maintaining public stormwater management facilities and public conveyance infrastructure (manholes, pipes, and channels). To comply with new MS4 mandates, the County will initially undertake a project to map the entire infrastructure system and assess it for age and condition.

Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE)

Reducing unlawful non-stormwater discharges, such as the disposal of waste in storm drains. County staff accomplishes this through investigating complaints, searching for suspicious discharges, and enforcing compliance with County ordinances.

Pollution Prevention on County properties

Managing County operations to minimize the potential for pollution discharges, through proper storage of materials and cleanup of spills.

Public Education

Educating the general public about stormwater and ways individuals can contribute in achieving healthy waters through various measures, including newspaper ads, mail inserts, and animated movie ads.

Dam Safety

Since the late 1980s, Virginia has required that dams over a certain size be responsibly operated to ensure public safety. Albemarle County is responsible for six earthen dams – those forming the lakes located at Chris Greene Park, Walnut Creek Park, two at Mint Springs Park, Lake Hollymead, and the lake adjacent to Monticello High School and Lakeside Apartments.

  • Operation and Maintenance – Mowing, control of vegetation, and the regular maintenance of outfall structures and channels.
  • Annual Inspections – Each dam must be inspected annually to ensure it is being maintained in compliance with the permit.
  • Emergency Action Plans – For each dam, the County must develop procedures to protect life during potential emergency conditions.
  • Repair and Improvements – Capital improvements must be made to address deficiencies in spillway capacity or repair aging features.

Needs and Responsibilities

While many of Albemarle County’s water resources programs have become mandatory over time, the County implements some proactive programs. It’s worth noting that these programs – by protecting existing water resources – will lower future mandated requirements by keeping more bodies of water from becoming impaired.

Current Programs

  • Stream Buffer Protection - The stream buffer protection program prohibits impacts to vegetation generally within 100-feet of streams and lakes. The vegetated area serves as a buffer from development impacts. This program creates incentives for property owners to enhance these areas and provides for enforcement.

  • Groundwater Management – The Groundwater Management program requires the submission of a Well Completion report to the County during the building permit process to assist the County in assessing groundwater use. It requires large developments to complete a hydrogeologic assessment, which can help inform the site design.
Click here to download a full list of current programs and activities. 

Additional Programs Under Consideration

  • Map the entire system of Conveyance Infrastructure including both public and private facilities. Under the MS4 permit requirements, the County is required to undertake mapping and assessment of the conveyance infrastructure it owns. The County does not have the private system mapped, so it is unclear what the extent of this system is. However, if privately-owned infrastructure fails, the impact can be significant and the extent of the impact often occurs on another property (or several properties). The WRFAC has recommended to the Board of Supervisors the following:
    • The County should map the entire conveyance infrastructure system to better understand what the extent of the system is.
    • The County should assume maintenance responsibility for infrastructure that is on private land under a public easement
    • The Board should consider whether or not to assume responsibility for conveyance infrastructure that is on private land without easement once it has completed its mapping project and the full extent of the system is better understood.
  • Watershed Planning and Restoration Projects – Impaired streams within the urban areas will ultimately be addressed as part of the mandated TMDL requirements. However, there are healthy streams in the urban areas and there are impaired streams outside of the urban areas – all of which could benefit from watershed planning now. A comprehensive watershed planning program would include assessing stream conditions and water quality, identifying the cause of any impairment, and recommending mitigation opportunities to prevent further degradation and improve water quality. The WRFAC has recommended to the Board of Supervisors that watershed planning be budgeted countywide in order to improve rural streams and help prevent further impairment to urban streams.
  • Stream Buffer Protection Enforcement - The WRFAC has recommended to the Board of Supervisors to ensure staffing can support enforcement of this voluntary program.
  • Infrastructure Maintenance - The WRFAC has recommended that the water resources program plans to rehabilitate/replace 1% of the infrastructure in the system each year.