​​​​​Lake James Watershed


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Stormwater quality improvements

The City is working to identify projects within the Lake James Watershed that will reduce nutrients and improve water quality not only in Lake James, but also in the Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay. These reductions are focused on phosphorus, nitrogen, sediment, and bacteria in stormwater runoff within the watershed.

The Virginia Beach Stormwater Program pages provide further information regarding how the City is working to improve local water quality and ways residents and visitors can get involved.

Lake James water quality monitoring study

​A Water Quality Monitoring Report was completed by Public Works in April 2018 for the Lake James Watershed in response to algal blooms in Lake James.  This monitoring evaluation was an important step in the process to improve the water quality of Lake James and its surrounding watershed by helping to better understand the sources and concentrations of stormwater nutrients entering the lake, as well as within the adjacent Cedar Hill Canal.  This in turn will inform and help develop public and private strategies to manage local water quality, including the placement of projects to generate the most impact.

In 2017 and 2018, the City performed a water quality monitoring study to identify sources of pollutants and causes for the algal blooms. The study showed that Lake James often has excellent water quality, but is prone to seasonal algal blooms due to several factors: nutrients from the subdivision and commercial areas, nutrients from the Cedar Hill Canal, and yard runoff.

Due to the depth of the lake, a natural process called stratification may occur, resulting in turnover of the nutrients in the sediment at the lake bottom.  Several related links have been provided that illustrate this process in more detail.  In addition, the low rate of flushing and tranquil water conditions of the lake are characteristics that can also favor algal blooms.  Additional water quality monitoring is planned during the spring of 2019.  

​About the watershed

Lake James is a 94-acre water body that receives drainage from surrounding residential and commercial areas, and the Cedar Hill Canal.  The total area flowing into Lake James is approximately 689 acres, consisting of the Lake James Watershed with an area of 323 acres, and 366 acres contributing to the Cedar Hill Canal.  A variety of land uses discharge to the canal, including commercial, residential, and industrial.

A portion of the stormwater entering Lake James is treated prior to reaching the lake.  This is done through various stormwater management features such as wet ponds, infiltration trenches, and underground manufactured treatment devices.  For the Lake James Watershed, this treated area is 12% of the watershed, while 6% of the applicable area for the Cedar Hill Canal passes through a water treatment feature before continuing onward to the lake.​


Lake James is valued as both a neighborhood amenity and for its role in stormwater management.  A former borrow pit, in 1984 Lake James was established as a stormwater pond that receives runoff and stormwater from the surrounding watershed and Cedar Hill Canal, while also being used by its residents for recreational activities such as fishing and boating. The Lake James Watershed is located in the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River Watershed within Virginia Beach.  The Elizabeth River Watershed in turn is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.


Protect our waterways. Report stormwater pollution by calling (757) 385-1470.