The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities has received the 2017 National Environmental Achievement Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. The award will be formally presented at their winter conference in February.

The RVAH20 Storm Drain Art Contest was entered in the Public Information and Education: E-Media category. 

The project goal was to obtain a Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit by 2018, making Richmond one of the first cities in the U.S. to do so.

DPU is mandated to reach 20 percent of Richmond residents with a stormwater/water quality message: address pollution, how the public is related to area waterways, and how individual actions impact overall water health.

So Richmond DPU developed the first annual Storm Drain Art Project, "It All Drains to the James." Richmond-area artists would apply to paint a storm drain design that conveyed how important it is to keep our river – and our drinking water – clean. 

The goal was to educate the public that pollutants that go into storm drains impact Richmond waterways – the very places that are so beloved for community swimming, fishing and water sports.  It’s why all six of the storm drains selected for this project carry stormwater directly into the James River – and into our water supply.

When the artists were selected and the art work completed, fans voted for a favorite design online. The artist with the most votes received the RVA Choice Award, along with special recognition.

Stroll down Tredegar Street and see for yourself how art can help communicate that what goes into these drains flows directly into the James.


City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities (DPU) was one of 20 public drinking water systems recognized by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) for its utility management.

DPU received AMWA’s Gold Award for Exceptional Water Utility Performance, Oct. 17.

“These awards spotlight the impressive advances and substantial achievements of public drinking water utilities that are leading the nation in their efforts toward sustainability through innovative management practices, executive leadership and employee engagement,” said AMWA President Scott Potter. "Communities count on their drinking water systems for reliable and adequate supplies of clean, safe water, and those served by AMWA’s 2016 award winners can take pride in their outstanding accomplishments.”

AMWA’s Gold Awards recognize outstanding achievement in implementing the nationally recognized Attributes of Effective Utility Management, which include product quality, customer satisfaction, employee and leadership development, operational optimization, financial viability, infrastructure stability, operational resiliency, community sustainability, water resource adequacy, and stakeholder understanding and support. These Attributes were developed by a blue ribbon committee of water industry executives at the request of the U.S. EPA, AMWA, and other water organizations.

DPU is one of the largest water producers in Virginia, operating a modern water treatment plant that can treat up to 132 million gallons of water a day from the James River. Its treatment plant and distribution system consists of approximately 987 miles of mains, nine pumping stations, one reservoir, and 10 ground and/or elevated water storage tanks providing water to approximately 63,000 customers in the City.

DPU also has wholesale contracts to the surrounding counties, resulting in a facility that provides water for approximately 500,000 people in the greater Richmond region. In addition to supplying water to customers, the water utility provides water for fire protection throughout the City and maintains fire hydrant water valves and water mains as well as provides routine and emergency services.


Liquefied fat, oil and grease (FOG) that’s poured down the kitchen sink drain can cling to the insides of pipes and sewer systems, causing sewer blockages and backups.

Keep our sewage system clear and our waterways clean – dispose of cooking oil and grease responsibly!

 Here are a few tips to remember:

•   DON’T: Pour cooking oil or grease down the kitchen sink, toilet or any other drain in your home.

•   DO: Dry-wipe all pots, pans and plates to remove oil prior to washing them.

•   DO: Use strainers in sinks to catch food scraps and other solids.

•   DO: Properly collect and dispose of fats, oils and grease in your regular waste receptacle.

Remember: Items like paint, turpentine, fuel, coolants and batteries should also be disposed of responsibly. If they aren’t, these household hazardous waste products can pollute the environment and pose a threat to human health. Learn more about how to dispose of hazardous waste here.


Fertilizers applied on land can run off directly into Richmond waterways. Too much fertilizer results in too much algae in the water, which can deplete the oxygen fish need to survive. Do your part to reduce the amount of fertilizers and pesticides used on your lawn by planting a rain garden this spring!


 1. Location is key. Plant your garden in a naturally occurring low spot or under a downspout.

 2. Choose native plants that will grow well in both wet and dry areas.

 3. Use a mix of sand and compost to allow water to soak in rapidly and support healthy plant growth.

 4. Before you start digging, contact your local organization that locates underground utilities.

 5. Check out Rain Garden Network before you begin for a complete step-by-step guide.

Want to do more? Read Our Water to learn about other ways you can protect our waterways and reduce pollution. If you are going to fertilize, please do it in the Fall. 



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The city of Richmond, primarily in older sections of town, uses a combined sewer system in which sewer waste and stormwater combine in the same sewer. When the city experiences heavy rainfalls, these older systems overflow into the James. The less stormwater runoff we have going into our sewers, the less likely the James will be negatively affected.

How can you help? Take advantage of the Stormwater Credit Program!

“The Stormwater Credit Program encourages people to implement stormwater preventive measures like rain gardens to help remove pollutants from the stormwater before it’s released back into the city system or into the ground, where it can easily be absorbed by the James River,” explains Christopher Grosvenor, Site Inspector Supervisor, DPU/Water Resources, City of Richmond.

“We have lots of people participating in the Credit program, but it would be great if more people got involved," adds Grosvenor. Participation can be something as elaborate as planting a rain garden or as simple as installing a rain barrel.”

Front Yard of House
House After Rain Garden

Residents who reduce stormwater runoff or improve the quality of stormwater runoff from their property to the Richmond stormwater system are eligible for a reduction in their stormwater fee. For a small residential single-family home, a rain barrel could mean a 20 percent reduction. A rain garden and a vegetated strip could add up to 50 percent off the monthly fee.

 “A business can get stormwater credits by installing rain gardens or any kind of bio-retention storage, or by getting involved in pre-treating their stormwater before it goes back into the city system,” adds Grosvenor.

This incentive program is great for the James River and great for your pocket, too! Certain requirements must be met. To learn more, visit RVA Stormwater Credits today.



Did you know that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that stormwater is a major source of surface water pollution in our community?

As stormwater travels over impervious surfaces like driveways, roads, sidewalks and roofs, it can pick up pollutants like dirt, trash, oil, fertilizers and pet waste and carry it into the James River – the primary source of drinking water for most RVA residents.

How do you make a big dent in stormwater pollution? Go local! The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is on a mission to educate residents, businesses owners and local governments about the importance of reducing the impact of runoff through responsible landscaping with its RiverWise Communities Program.

Yard Before
Yard After

“The [RiverWise Community] program aims to educate communities about the importance of controlling stormwater by using native plants and making informed decisions about how they manage their property,” says Elizabeth Chudoba, Program Coordinator, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

“It is important that we recognize that stormwater pollution comes from roads, shopping centers and all developed lands, including our own homes, says Nissa Dean, Virginia Director, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. If we all work hard to reduce stormwater on our own property, collectively we can prevent millions of gallons of stormwater from entering our waterways. This will keep harmful nutrients and toxic chemicals out of our streams, helping aquatic life thrive.”

“The Alliance provides tools for assessing properties, implementing the practices, tracking implementation and quantifying pollutant load reductions, as well as reporting it to states and the Chesapeake Bay Program so that reduction can be credited in the Watershed Model,” Chudoba explains.

When a homeowner shows interest in the RiverWise program, the Alliance sends a trained volunteer to the residence to conduct a property assessment. The assessment outlines the current impact the property is having on local waterways and identifies any practices that would reduce that impact – like planting trees or rain gardens, or addressing impervious surfaces.

Back Yard Before
Back Yard After

“After the assessment, homeowners receive a report detailing the actions they can take to reduce their impact,” says Chudoba. “If funding is available, the homeowner can then sign up to receive cost-share funds to implement these practices.”

The non-profit organization has partnered with many area watershed champions, including the Reedy Creek Coalition in Richmond. The stormwater management practices implemented as a result of the groups’ partnership have resulted in the treatment of over one million gallons of stormwater per year.

Chudoba reports that since working on the Reedy Creek project, the Alliance has implemented solutions to improve the Bellemeade-Goodes Creek watershed, which has become a RiverWise Community. And Northside and East End residents of Richmond will soon be able to join the movement.

Before Residential Rain Garden
Front Yard After Rain Garden Enacted

“We just received another grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to continue running the RiverWise program, and we will be installing practices throughout Richmond,” says Chudoba.

Want to know more? Visit Reduce Your Stormwater or Pollution Solutions to discover how you can reduce the amount of damaging runoff on your property and protect our watersheds in the process.





Shiver in the River Makes a Splash

It was a brisk Saturday on the James, but that’s exactly why everyone was there – to participate in the second annual Shiver in the River! Hundreds came out for the fundraiser, which had participants cleaning up the banks of the James or their own communities, running or walking a 5K, or taking a plunge into the James – all in support of Keep Virginia Beautiful (KVB).

The goodwill and mission behind the event, coupled with the great beverages, food and music, have turned the event into the coolest winter festival in Richmond.

Said participant David Christian right before he took the plunge, "I feel great. This is the first time I've done it. What really impresses me is the pride of the community to come out to clean up the riverfront  the ownership that people take of this special city. It's fantastic!" 

Those who turned up for the event had many different reasons to support KVB, but perhaps none were as emotional as that of one team participating in the James River Jump: “Margaret's Plunging Twinkle Toes.”

Julie Kacmarcik, team spokesperson, explained. “My friend Margaret O’Bryan has been fighting kidney cancer since 2014. It went to her brain and her lungs. Last night, she lost her fight. She’s been a lover of nature as long as I’ve known her. We gave her the name Queen of the Royal Plunger years ago, so she knew about this, and she wanted us to do it. She loved her home state of Virginia and did all she could to defend our natural resources. We are doing this in her honor."

Read more about Shiver on the River



How do those in the know describe the mission of Keep Virginia Beautiful (KVB)? “Our mission at Keep Virginia Beautiful is to engage and unite Virginians to improve our natural and scenic environment,” says Mike Baum, Director, KVB. “We do this by focusing on five areas of impact: litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling, beautification and environmental education.”

“Shiver in the River is an ideal fundraising event for us, especially because of the cleanup aspect of the day, which really ties in to our mission,” he adds. “This event gives us another great opportunity to educate folks about litter!”


  • 100 recycling bins
  • 24 cigarette receptacles
  • Countless pocket ashtrays

Did you know there’s a right way and a wrong way to dispose of cigarette butts? KVB does. “I don’t think many people realize that cigarette butts make up about 38% of Virginia’s litter,” explains Baum. “Its important that people realize that whether its a cigarette butt or trash in general, its going somewhere. Unfortunately, it can end up in our river and watershed, which can affect our drinking water.”



Protecting and improving water quality in the James River is an ongoing commitment of the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). Did you know that Richmond's wastewater treatment facility, located along the south bank of the James River, can treat up to 75 million gallons of wastewater per day? The plant serves Richmond residents as well as Goochland and parts of Henrico and Chesterfield counties.

Built in 1958 and upgraded several times since to enhance pollutant removal, the most recent improvement reduced the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus released to the James River and ultimately to the Chesapeake Bay – resulting in a cleaner, healthier river and Bay. In addition to the millions of dollars invested in improving pollutant removal, DPU is also engaged in a multi-year combined sewer overflow (CSO) control program to protect the river from overflows during heavy rains. Learn more.

The James River is so important to all of us! It’s vital that we manage it wisely, for the sake of our health and the activities we enjoy. Together, we can achieve cleaner water faster. Learn more at






We’ve already had our fair share of snow this winter, but our cold weather season is far from over. Don’t become a victim of frozen pipes, which can burst and become an expensive and messy problem.

Here are some tips to help you avoid a cold weather disaster:

  1. Drain and turn off all outside water faucets and valves.
  2. Wrap water pipes in insulation or layers of newspaper, tied on with plastic bags.
  3.  Find your main water cut-off valve, mark it, and know how to cut off the water should your pipes freeze.
  4. Open up your cabinets during very cold weather to allow warm air from the house to flow around pipes.
  5.  If you have pipes that run through unheated areas of your home, let your faucets drip slightly until temperatures are above freezing again.


How to Have Happy, Eco-Friendly Holidays

Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can be easy to forget about the impact you make on the environment. But remembering these three tips will make it easy to keep your celebrations festive and beneficial to the earth.

  1.  Keep your tree out of the drain. Dispose of your holiday tree properly through Richmond’s tree recycling program. Richmond residents can set trees by their Supercans for collection and recycling.

    Richmond residents can also bring trees to the “Bring One for the Chipper” recycling event on January 16 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (Document shredding and electronics recycling services will be available, as well). This event is hosted by the City of Richmond Department of Public Works and the Richmond Clean City Commission, and will take place at the field at the corner of North Boulevard & Robin Hood Road.
  2. Make holiday meal cleanup waterway friendly. When fats and oils go down the drain, they can cause clogs, sewer overflows and health hazards. So be sure to can used cooking grease, put leftover food in the trash and use a drain basket in the sink.

  3. Recycle all the way. From giftwrap to disposable party plates, we all use our fair share of paper products during the holidays. Recycle as much as you can and look for wrapping paper that’s recycled or recyclable.

Find more ways to be a Hero for H2O at

Celebrating Going Green in RVA

As 2015 comes to a close, we’re celebrating another great year of community members, regional partners and our own DPU team working to improve local water quality through various efforts, including green infrastructure projects.

Installing systems like green alleys and roofs and rain gardens not only ensures our natural water cycle is being protected and enhanced – it can also lead to cost savings for businesses and city residents through DPU’s stormwater credits. Plus, many of those who implement these kinds of solutions also see reductions in energy-related expenses like power and water.

It’s inspiring to see so many organizations – from local banks to neighborhood churches – take on green projects like modifying their parking lots with pervious paving, which greatly reduces stormwater runoff. With the help of our partners, DPU has completed similar paving enhancements in six alleys in the City, and six more are planned for 2016. Read more about our green infrastructure efforts at

In 2016, RVAH2O Community Currents will be reporting on what YOU are doing to make Richmond greener. Please submit your ideas or questions to us at and check out future issues to find out what lies ahead as we all work toward cleaner water faster!

Introducing RVAH2O Community Currents: Your Portal To Cleaner Water Faster

Welcome to the first edition of RVAH2O Community Currents. We launched this newsletter as part of RVAH2O—a new initiative started by the city of Richmond Department of Public Utilities with one big goal: Achieve cleaner water faster.

This newsletter is your portal to environmental efforts happening around Richmond waterways. In each edition, you can expect easy tips you can do in your own backyard to improve our area watersheds. Plus, we’ll keep you posted on what the DPU and our partners are doing toward achieving clean water, and we’ll breakdown important topics like stormwater—what it is, what’s wrong with it, and what we can do together to improve it.

We’ll also let you know about local events where you can connect with RVAH20 and enjoy fresh, free tap water at our hydration stations. We will also inform you of events, like our Community Open House at the Science Museum of Virginia this past June, where city residents came together to share new ideas and learn about the city water cycle.

From kayaking in the James River to drinking a cold glass of tap water, we all touch Richmond’s water sources everyday. So it’s important all the voices of the community are heard and addressed. We hope you’ll pass along this newsletter, share our stories on Facebook, and tag us in your favorite river photos. Because every voice matters, just like every drop counts.

Upcoming Event: Earth Day Richmond Festival/5K Race

Earth Day Richmond Festival/5K Race

Saturday, April 23, 2016, 11am - 5pm

Located at great Shiplock Park Shockoe Bottom

  • Eco-friendly activities including a craft market, exhibits, art, and family friendly outdoor fun
  • Local food and drink
  • Guided mountain bike rides along the Capital Trail hosted by the James River Park Outdoor Adventure Program at 12:00pm and 3:00pm
  • Jesse the Juggler! 30 minute shows at 12:00pm, 1:00pm, and 2:00pm
  • Riverfront fun! Including kayak rides on the James from RVA Paddlesports
  • Outdoor Gear Swap – hosted by the James River Outdoor Coalition
  • Children’s hands on activities
  • Earth Craft Virginia Race Without a Trace
  • Exhibits and activities along Kanawha Canal and Virginia Capital Trail

If you have any questions, please email or call 804-646-8325.

3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Fall Leaves

The beauty of autumn leaves can quickly fade once they hit your lawn, and fallen leaves can be a major cause of pollution and flooding when not picked up. Here are three easy ideas to properly manage fallen leaves:

  1. Compost ‘em! Backyard compost is the best environmental option, and what’s more, in a few months time you’ll have fresh dirt for your spring garden. TIP: Use your lawnmower to mulch your leaves for instant landscaping use or to speed up the compositing process.

  2. Take advantage of the city’s FREE curbside pick up. Just rake your leaves to your property line by your neighborhood’s pick-up date, and they’ll take care of the rest. Click here for more details.

  3. Bag-N-Go! Use biodegradable leaf bags to pack up your leaves and put them out with your regular, weekly trash pick up.

Find more ways to be a Hero for H2O at