Dan River Watershed
Current Status of Watershed Work:
Plans / Resources / Other Links:
Dan River Conservation and Restoration Analysis and Strategy
The 3,300 square mile Dan River watershed has about equal areas in North Carolina and Virginia. More than two-thirds of the watershed is forested and managed grassland accounts for about 20 percent of the total watershed area. Residential and industrial developments encompass less than ten percent of the watershed.
Several studies of the Dan River Watershed have not only helped to assess the watershed, but have preliminarily identified some of the causes and sources of water quality problems. This initial problem identification has allowed certain players in the watershed to begin implementing measures that should result in improved water quality in the watershed. Specifically, 319 monies were used by Stokes, Caswell, and Rockingham Soil and Water Conservation Districts to work with farmers and others in the watershed to implement management measures to help their farming practices lessen impact on water quality.
Certain segments of the Dan River and Smith River (one of the larger tributaries in the watershed) are impaired for turbidity and fecal coliform bacteria, but certain segments of the Smith River are also impaired for biological integrity and copper. One or more of these impairments can be addressed simultaneously depending upon the management measure implemented. For example, one management measure employed by the soil and water districts is fencing cattle from streams that can reduce both turbidity and fecal coliform in streams.
Because the watershed is so large, many realize the importance of trying to prioritize the many smaller subwatersheds that comprise Dan River watershed. Although general education of the importance of protecting the watershed is important to all stakeholders in the watershed, to more easily produce measurable water quality improvements, it is necessary to focus on smaller areas.
One thing that will help Dan River watershed efforts is that North Carolina and Virginia agencies assigned with the responsibility of protecting and restoring their respective state’s water quality have both agreed that Dan River watershed will be a focus priority for both states. This means that the two states should better communicate and coordinate when strategizing how to protect and improve the watershed. Yet, with several interested players in addition to the state agencies including: the local soil and water conservation districts (mentioned in connection with 319 project), US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Dan River Basin Association, Duke University, the USDA-NRCS-Piedmont Conservation Council, the Piedmont Land Conservancy, and others there is promise and hope for improved conditions in the Dan River Watershed.