The Hardware River Project was designed and implemented by the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District (TJSWCD) in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and funded by the Charlottesville Albemarle Community Foundation (CACF) to provide a ground survey of the riparian areas of the Hardware River watershed. A grant from the CACF provided the TJSWCD with the funding to hire five interns who conducted a visual field survey of the Hardware River and its tributaries.
The interns waded the Hardware's streams, using digital cameras, hand-held GPS devices, and waterproof note-books to record their observations and document conditions that might have an impact on the health of the watershed. They documented instances of significant erosion, possible sources of bacterial contamination, as well as restoration activities.
Following completion of the ground survey, data collected will be used to develop a strategy for targeting resources to help improve water quality in the Hardware River Watershed. The TJSWCD hopes to develop partnerships with local landowners by providing financial and technical assistance to improve the quality and health of this valuable resource.
If you live in the Hardware River Watershed and are interested in implementing conservation practices before regulatory measures could be imposed, please contact the TJSWCD at (434) 975-0224.
Hardware River Watershed
The Hardware River Watershed consists of over 61,000 acres in Fluvanna and Albemarle counties. The North and South forks of the Hardware, which originate in Albemarle, join to form the main stem of the river. Seven miles southeast of Scottville, the Hardware flows into the James, which eventually empties into the Chesapeake Bay.Land Use in the Hardware River Watershed:
- 78-80% is forested
- 18-20% is agricultural
- 2-4% is residential
In 2002, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality placed the Hardware River on the 303(d) impaired waters list after it was found to be in violation of the freshwater quality standard for fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria. The Virginia DEQ listed the North Fork of the Hardware as impaired in 2006, also due to bacterial impairment.
Problems in the Hardware
Erosion and SedimentationDuring storm events, fast-moving water erodes soil from unstable banks. Large amounts of suspended sediment negatively impact stream biology by:
- Clogging the gills of fish and having a negative effect on fertilization and hatching of fish eggs
- Smothering benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms, thus reducing biodiversity
- Reducing stream clarity and decreasing oxygen levels in the water
- Causing stream aggradation, the build-up of material in a stream bed when more sediment is deposited than removed
Fecal Coliform BacteriaThe Hardware River is on the impaired waters list because it does not meet Virginia water quality standards as a result of high levels of fecal coliform bacteria.
- Fecal coliform bacteria are associated with human or animal wastes. Their presence is a strong indication of recent sewage or animal waste contamination.
- Most fecal coliform bacteria are not pathogenic (disease-causing), but their presence in water indicates contamination by fecal material which may contain pathogenic organisms.
- Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a type of fecal coliform bacteria. Some strains of E. coli can cause gastrointestinal illness, such as diarrhea and abdominal cramps.