State of the James

Since the founding of America on its banks 400 years ago, the James River has played a central and defining role in the development of Virginia. No other natural feature of the New World had more influence on the early colony, and no other natural feature has provided more for Virginia. After 400 years of nurturing us, America’s Founding River needs nurturing itself.

This State of the James River report provides a report card on the effort to bring this shared natural resource back to full health. The report examines the status and trends of indicators in four categories that build on one another. At the top are the fish and wildlife populations that are important to the health of the river and to everyone who enjoys and cares about the river. These wildlife populations depend on habitat to provide their critical needs for life. The greatest factor affecting the quality of habitat in the James River is the amount of pollution that enters our streams and creeks and ultimately flows into the James River. Finally, the report assesses progress on the restoration and protection actions needed to reduce damaging pollution and return the James River to a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

For each indicator, JRA has identified and compiled a key measure of river health. Quantitative benchmarks have been set for what we need to achieve to have a healthy James River. When possible, the benchmark is a goal that has been set by the state or an authority on a specifi c indicator. Current progress is compared to this benchmark to calculate a score which is then averaged across the indicators in each category to determine the grade for that category.

Also, the 2-year change has been listed for each indicator. Because of refinements in the methodology of the report, the changes do not necessarily correspond to the scores contained in previous State of the James reports. The scores for current and 2-year change are determined by using the same methodology and benchmark.

Interactive State of the James Report

2015 State of the James Report (PDF)

Press Release



The James River Association would like to thank the following organizations for their contributions to this report:Chesapeake Conservancy, College of William and Mary – Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Conservation Biology, Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Integration and Application Network, United States Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program, and United States Geological Survey

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2013 James River State of the James Grading Scale