Clean Water
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Conserving Water

By reducing impervious surface.

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Land conservation and land use planning/advocacy are the primary ways that PEC works to reduce impervious surfaces.
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Improving Water Quality

Through land management.

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From rural to suburban to urban, there are best management practices (native plantings, livestock fencing) that make water cleaner.
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Restoring Connections

By removing barriers.

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Culverts, low-water crossings and linear infrastructure (i.e. pipelines, highways) can serve as disruptions to healthy stream flow.
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Measuring Success

Through stream monitoring.

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Monitoring water quality, biological populations, and physical features of stream habitat are all vital to understanding stream health.
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The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (“the Bay Act”) was originally adopted by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988, taking effect in 84 localities, including suburban and urban communities like Fairfax, Alexandria and Richmond, and rural counties like Caroline, King William and Chesterfield. The General Assembly of Virginia passed the Bay Act in an effort to promote “the general welfare of the people of the Commonwealth” (section 10.1-2100) by protecting the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries (i.e. all bodies of water that ultimately flow to the Bay and thus constitute the Bay’s watershed), and other state waters. [i]

Like many other environmental protection programs, the Bay Act was designed as an extension of the public trust doctrine – the principle that certain resources are preserved for public use, and that the government has a responsibility to maintain these resources.[ii] As such, the Bay Act recognizes that the way land is used and developed necessarily impacts water quality, and thus focuses on reducing and preventing nonpoint source pollution.[iii] The aspirations of the Bay Act are summed up in its opening sentence:

Healthy state and local economies and a healthy Chesapeake Bay are integrally related; balanced economic development and water quality protection are not mutually exclusive.

But beyond providing a few basic guidelines, the Bay Act itself did not explicitly establish what criteria the original 84 localities would be required to implement to protect their water resources. Instead, the act called for the creation of the Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Board (“the Board”), whose responsibility it would be, among other things, to “develop, promulgate, and keep current” (section 10.1-2103) the criteria to be used by local governments in deciding how land protected under the Bay Act could be rezoned, subdivided, used, or developed. In drafting these criteria, the Bay Act required that the Board consider and address the following:

  1. the protection of existing high quality waters and restoration of all other state waters to a condition that permits reasonable public use and maintains a healthy ecosystem;
  2. the prevention of increases in pollution of waterways;
  3. the reduction of existing pollution; and
  4. the promotion of water resource conservation to provide for the “health, safety, and welfare of present and future citizens of the Commonwealth” (section 10.1-2107).

Following these requirements, the Board developed the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Designation and Management Regulations, officially adopting the regulations in 1990 and later amending them in December 2001. These regulations laid out in detail the protective measures that would be taken to safeguard the region’s waterways, focusing on the implementation and protection of riparian buffers (the vegetated strips of land on either side of a stream) along perennial streams (i.e. streams that flow year-round). The revised regulations took effect in March 2002 and were adopted by all 84 localities by December 2003.

By granting to local governments the authority to manage water quality, the Bay Act enabled each locality to establish protective measures and land use guidelines specific to their region. Now, with the Board’s regulations in hand, these local governments had the tools necessary to fully exercise the powers granted to them by the Bay Act. To learn more about the Designation and Management Regulations, visit





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