Clean water is our most important resource. To preserve water quality for future generations, we need to understand where water comes from, how we use it, and where it goes when it leaves our homes and businesses. Learn how drinking water, wastewater and stormwater runoff are managed by separate systems in Fairfax County and where you can get help and find more information.
For urgent problems, call the 24-Hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 | TTY 711
Your drinking water can travel a great distance before it reaches your tap. Water comes into your house or building from either a public water service provider or a private well.
Public Water Service: In Fairfax County, our drinking water comes from the Potomac and Occoquan Rivers. Water is treated and piped to our homes and businesses where we use the clean water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and plumbing.
For more information, contact these water suppliers:
Wells: Where public water is not available, private water wells supply water. Groundwater is the largest fresh water supply, and protection of this resource is vital. More than 15,000 homes and businesses in Fairfax County rely on groundwater wells for their domestic water supply.
If connected to the public sewer system, water used in kitchens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms becomes wastewater and is conveyed to wastewater treatment plants. The treated wastewater is discharged back into the environment, completing the water use cycle.
For information or to seek help with sanitary sewer problems, visit
Where public sewer is not available, a septic system may be installed with approval from the Fairfax County Health Department. Septic tank systems carry wastewater to an underground receiving/holding tank under your yard which must be pumped out regularly and conveyed to wastewater treatment plants.
Stormwater is runoff such as rainwater, melting snow and ice.
In natural areas where the land has not been paved, this runoff soaks into the soil and may be taken up by plants or enter the groundwater system.
In heavily developed areas, stormwater runoff from roads, sidewalks, driveways, roofs and other hard surfaces cannot soak into the ground, but instead flows rapidly off these impervious surfaces and into the storm drainage system.
The runoff is carried either to a stormwater management facility or directly to lakes, streams, rivers or wetlands. On its path to our waterways, runoff can pick up pollutants such as sediments, excess nutrients, toxic substances and disease-causing microorganisms. These pollutants have potentially harmful effects on drinking water supplies, recreation and our fish populations. Ultimately, this polluted runoff makes its way to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay through our many watersheds.
For more information on stormwater management, visit
Everyone can help preserve our water quality and protect the environment. Ensure that only rain goes down the storm drain by limiting lawn fertilizer, picking up pet waste, managing trash, and properly disposing of paint, motor oil, and chemicals. Inside the home, avoid pouring fats, oils and grease down the drain, and never flush used medicine down the toilet.
Planting trees along our streets, in our yards, in our parks and adjacent to our streams also can improve the quality of our water. Find out just how useful trees are by reading the How Do Trees Benefit Me?. However, some of our forests are being overtaken by non-native and invasive species. Find out more about these species and how you can help remove them from our environment with the Fairfax County Park Authority's Invasive Management Area program.
Through a number of partnerships and stewardship and education efforts, Fairfax County seeks ways to use all resources wisely and to protect and enhance the county's natural environment and open space.