Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District

Fairfax County, Virginia



Our office is open 9AM-5PM M-F

703-324-1460 | TTY 711

12055 Government Center Parkway
Suite 905, Fairfax, VA 22035

Laura Grape, Executive Director

Northern Virginia SWCD logo


We promote soil and water conservation in Fairfax County and beyond. We are innovators. We promote hands-on conservation. We provide technical expertise. We develop young environmental leaders. We help you bring conservation home. We prevent pollution, reduce runoff and protect our streams and rivers.

Learn More


There are currently no upcoming events to view.

Board meetings on the 4th Tuesday of each month!

Learn more about our board and our upcoming board meetings here. We'd be happy to have you join us.

Green Breakfast Events

A bimonthly gathering to discuss environmental topics in a causal setting on a Saturday morning.

Conservation Currents Newsletter

Soil and water conservation news with articles published three times a year

Watershed Calendar

Includes upcoming stream monitoring events, as well as community events and relevant conservation news.

Soil & Water Conservation News

September 5, 2019
By Willie Woode, NVSWCD Senior Conservation Specialist Here’s hoping you had a great gardening experience this year! Sooner rather than later, the weather will get colder and garden plants will yield to the cold temperatures. Most people may think, “It’s time to let the soil rest!” Actually, because soil is a living entity it does not need to rest. Rather, it needs to be kept active so that all its millions of microbes can continue to stay alive through the winter months. To keep your soil active, you can grow a cool season cover crop mix. This practice is recommended because the plant species in the mix rebuild the soil by: Improving soil structure through increased soil microbial activities Increasing water infiltration and water holding capacity Reducing soil compaction Enhancing soil organic matter Recycling plant nutrients Enriching soil nitrogen content Insulating the soil to allow microbes to survive cold winter months   The seeds of cool season cover crop mix are best planted by broadcasting method, about a month (15 – 45 days) before the first killing frost. In Fairfax County, the average date for the first killing frost is October 25. It is important to remember that cool season cover crops should be tilled into the soil about a month before spring planting, or before they flower or seed. If the cover crops are allowed to flower or seed, accumulated plant nutrients that should be available for your new garden plants would have been utilized in making the flowers and seeds. If you decide that a cool season cover crop mix is a good fit for your garden, you can purchase the seeds required at any seed supplier. Deep-rooted plants (brassica) reach deep into the soil and draw nutrients back up into the root zone of most plants and legumes (nitrogen fixing plants) convert atmospheric nitrogen into plant available nitrogen. A common cool season seed mix can include legumes (such as snow peas, hairy vetch, and white clover), grasses (such as triticale and annual/winter rye), and brassica (such as rapeseed, turnip, and radish). The basic mix recommended by several Soil and Water Conservation Districts includes triticale, orchard grass, annual ryegrass, black oats, turnips, rapeseed, and white clover. 

2019 Stream Monitoring Certification Workshop

September 6, 2019
The stream monitoring certification workshop was a huge success this year, with a total of 23 attendees and 11 Fairfax County residents taking their certification exam! This event, held annually and co-sponsored by Northern Virginia and Prince William Soil and Water Conservation Districts, brings together stream monitoring volunteers from the surrounding area to learn more about how stream quality can be assessed using benthic macroinvertebrates. About the Program The NVSWCD volunteer stream monitoring program began in 1997 and is considered to be one of the larger volunteer monitoring programs in the state. The program uses protocols from the Virginia Save Our Streams (VASOS) program, a volunteer program from the Izaak Walton League of America. These protocols are used to collect macroinvertebrates, identify them, and learn how to use the number of organisms found to calculate a stream score that represents the health of the water body. NVSWCD holds introductory workshops each month, and volunteers can become certified monitors at the annual stream monitoring certification workshop. 2019 Stream Monitoring Certification Workshop This year’s stream monitoring certification workshop was held on Saturday, August 10, 2019 at Manassas National Battlefield Park. After introductions, Dan Schwartz, NVSWCD Soil Scientist,  led a presentation on urban watersheds. Volunteers learned about watersheds (the area of land that drains to a body of water), increased impervious surfaces in urban environments that water cannot move through, and the effects of urbanization on local streams. Veronica Tangiri, PWSWCD Water Quality Program Coordinator,  spoke to the volunteers about the VASOS program, including protocols for stream monitoring and the many ways that the data they collect can be used. In Virginia, VASOS volunteers supply twelve percent of the data for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) to use in water quality reports to Congress. VDEQ also uses this data to prioritize stream conservation and restoration efforts. Veronica led volunteers in an in-depth look at the many types of macroinvertebrates that they might see in Virginia streams. Macroinvertebrates are tiny  adult or larval forms of aquatic insects that live on the bottom of streams. Some are easily affected by pollution and can only be found in healthy streams, while others are more tolerant of pollution. The proportion of these organisms that you find, as well as the overall diversity of species found, can indicate stream health. Volunteers identify over 20 different types of macroinvertebrates, including everything from aquatic worms and leeches to mayfly and dragonfly larvae. After the presentations, volunteers split into groups. Volunteers taking the certification test began the written portion of the exam, proctored by Ashley Palmer, NVSWCD Conservation Education Specialist. The written portion of the exam includes identifying 22 preserved macroinvertebrate samples and correctly indicating proper sampling protocols and collection methods. When the written portion of the certification exam was finished, volunteers loaded into their cars and caravanned to Young’s Branch, a local tributary to Bull Run. Veronica and Dan observed volunteers as they sampled the stream for macroinvertebrates, performing the practical portion of the test which looks for volunteers to employ good sampling techniques and practices. Ashley led volunteers not taking the certification test in a traditional stream monitoring workshop and assisted them in collection and macroinvertebrate identification. At the end of the long day, all 11 Fairfax County volunteer stream monitors passed the certification test! Certified NVSWCD stream monitors are provided with nets, boots, and all of the other equipment needed to monitor their own stream. NVSWCD hopes to set up newly-certified monitors at their stream in time for the fall sampling season. How can I get involved? NVSWCD is actively looking for volunteers to monitor streams throughout Fairfax County! This is a great opportunity to earn service hours for school, scouts, master naturalist programs, and many more. You can volunteer for as many monthly stream monitoring workshops as you like, or volunteer more consistently as a certified monitor. You can learn more about the program by visiting the stream monitoring webpage. Send questions about Fairfax stream monitoring to

Storm Drain Labeling in Cub Run

September 7, 2019
  What is the storm drain labeling and education program? Fairfax County has over 83,000 storm drain inlets, each carrying stormwater through pipes and dumping it directly into rivers and streams. Often, pollution is picked up by the moving water and enters our waterways through the storm drains. The storm drain labeling and education program aims to educate Fairfax County residents about stormwater pollution and prevent future pollution from reaching our streams. To reach this goal, attractive decals with a “No Dumping” message are glued to storm drains. These labels depict shad, a fish that relies on local streams for its spawning habitat. This entirely volunteer-led program has labeled over 34,000 storm drains and educated over 357,000 households from 2002-2018. What does a storm drain labeling project look like? Volunteer project leaders begin their projects by contacting NVSWCD and obtaining project approval from the area that they wish to label. Most volunteers focus on their neighborhood, or areas important to them like their school or place of worship. Project leaders then develop an educational piece describing the project and its intended outcomes to be distributed to community members. This flyer includes important actions that you can take to prevent pollution in storm drains. Finally, the project leader and their volunteers label the storm drains in their chosen community. Cub Run Stream Valley Park Storm Drain Labeling Event   The Cub Run Park Volunteer Team (PVT) are a group of active local citizens with the intent to create a stronger, more resilient, community focused around the vibrant Cub Run Stream Valley Park. In past years, the Cub Run Park Volunteer Team has led several storm drain labeling campaigns in the area, including in the communities of London Towne and London Towne West II. These efforts resulted in the labeling of over 100 drains and education of over 1,060 homes in the Cub Run watershed. It is especially important to encourgage good environmental stewardship and prevent pollution in communities surrounding Cub Run because the stream and its tributaries lead to the Occoquan Reservoir. This reservoir provides 17 milllion gallons of water each day to over 1.2 million people, including half the residents of Prince William County. Although it is a major source of fresh water, the Occoquan Reservoir is vulnerable to nonpoint source pollution  by fertilizers, animal waste, and other contaminants. On Saturday, August 17, the Cub Run PVT increased their efforts by joining forces with NVSWCD to lead a storm drain labeling event in Chantilly, near Cub Run Stream Valley Park. Volunteers participating in the labeling effort met at the Sully Governmental Center. There they met with NVSWCD’s Conservation Education Specialist, Ashley Palmer, who educated volunteers on the Cub Run watershed, sources of pollution, and the value of labeling storm drains. Volunteers learned how to label storm drains and set off in small groups to label their designated areas in the neighborhoods of Chalet Woods and Country Club Manor. Each group spent about two hours labeling,  checking each storm drain in their section of the neighborhood and making sure they were properly labeled. In total, twelve volunteers labeled 187 storm drains and aided in the education of over 1,200 households in the Cub Run Watershed. Members of the Cub Run PVT hope to see positive changes in the Cub Run Stream Valley Park as a result of this campaign. Cub Run PVT’s Team Lead, Anthony Consumano, considered the day a  success. “We are happy to partner with the Northern VA Soil and Water Conservation District as that organization brings a wealth of enthusiasm, organizational skills, and knowledge to teach those adults and children the importance of their watershed.  It was a beautiful August day and a great chance to get into the community to bring awareness to our storm drains.  Several people asked what we were doing and each one was intrigued by the program.  Thank you for the help!”   How can I get involved? Cub Run PVT is looking for new members and volunteers to support their initiatives. Anyone interested in more information should visit their facebook page, email Anthony to join their distribution list at, and attend their quarterly meetings. Other Cub Run PVT events include nature hikes, bird walks, stream monitoring, and photography events. NVSWCD is actively looking for volunteers to label storm drains throughout Fairfax County! This is a great opportunity to earn service hours for school, scouts, master naturalist programs, and many more. You can learn more about the program by visiting the storm drain labeling webpage. Send questions about storm drain labeling to      
Fairfax Virtual Assistant