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Chesapeake Bay and Virginia

Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay

Stream crossing for cattle on Poague Run near Staunton, VA.
Stream crossing for cattle along Poague Run in Staunton, VA.

Virginia is one of six states that directly impact the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The other states are Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New York and West Virginia. Virginia has 15.3 million acres of land (approximately 56 percent of the state) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Over half of Virginia's streams and rivers flow to the Bay. Almost three-fourths of the state's 8.0 million residents live within the watershed.  

Agriculture accounts for about 28 percent of the land use in the Bay Watershed with Virginia's top eight agricultural counties located either entirely or partially within its boundaries. From largest to smallest in farm sales, these counties are Rockingham, Augusta, Accomack, Page, Shenandoah, Northampton, Orange, and Amelia (Source: 2007 AG Census). 

The type of agricultural operations vary widely throughout the watershed. In the Shenandoah Valley, there are small to medium dairies, poultry farms and grass-based beef operations. Central Virginia’s Piedmont region features a mix of beef and cash grain operations. The Coastal Plain is dominated by corn and soybeans, small grains, some vegetable production and an expanding nursery stock industry.

Conservation Assistance in the Chesapeake Bay

NRCS provides technical assistance to farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to plan and apply conservation practices to improve water quality, restore wetlands, and enhance wildlife habitat.  Financial assistance is provided through Farm Bill programs to help implement these practices.

How can NRCS help me help the Bay?

What Farmers are doing in the Chesapeake Bay with NRCS Financial Assistance      

Farmers are doing their part to reduce pollutants to the Bay. In 2010, they installed cover crops on more than 47,000 acres, excluded livestock from more than 150 miles of streams, and planted riparian forest buffers along 94 miles of stream to reduce erosion and help keep soil from entering adjacent streams. They are also using no-till and other conservation tillage practices, properly managing manure, and installing other conservation practices.  In 2010, nutrient management practices were implemented an area almost twice the size of the City of Richmond. 

Smith Creek: Virginia's Showcase Watershed

Smith Creek is one of three showcase watersheds (Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) launched in 2010 to demonstrate what can be achieved by combining strong partnerships, sound science and funding to solve natural resource problems in targeted areas. On the state impaired streams list, the 67,000-acre watershed is the nucleus of a coordinated conservation effort.

NRCS is working with federal and state partners as well as local conservation districts, watershed groups and non-profits to provide technical and financial assistance to landowners to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into Smith Creek and its tributaries. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has provided staffing to target high-density animal production farms. NRCS has also entered into contribution agreements with the Lord Fairfax and Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation Districts to dedicate increased technical assistance.

USDA and its partners are committed to reaching out to 100 percent of the 495 agricultural producers in the watershed. They will also ensure that agricultural producers’ conservation efforts are accurately reported and credited.

Conservation Partnerships in the Chesapeake Bay

Conservation partnership grants are helping farmers reduce pollutants to the Chesapeake Bay.       

Chesapeake Bay Maps

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Chesapeake Bay HU Major Watersheds Map Icon


Chesapeake Bay in Virginia (jpg, 1.2MB)

   Chesapeake bay 12-Digit Watersheds in Virginia with Funding Priority

 Chesapeake Bay 12-Digit Watersheds with Funding Priority (jpg, 488 KB)

Partner Links

Other Chesapeake Bay watershed States


Wade Biddix
Assistant State Conservationist, Programs
Phone: (804) 287-1675

Blaine Delaney
NRCS Chesapeake Bay Watershed Coordinator
Phone: (804) 287-1663