The Fairfax County Water Service Authority's Occoquan Reservoir Easement - Background & Other Relevant Information
What is an easement?
- An easement is a right of way giving individuals other than the
owner permission to use a property for a specific purpose. Utilities often
have easements that allow them to run pipes, electric lines, etc., through
private property. Utilities, such as Dominion Power and the Fairfax Water
Service Authority manage the easement to maintain the dependability of the
intended public use.
How do I know if there is an easement on my property?
- Easement information is included in the individual property deeds.
- The Fairfax County Water Service Authority (WSA) has an easement
around the perimeter of the Occoquan Reservoir. This easement covers lands
adjacent to the Reservoir that are between the elevations of about 120 ft
msl (mean sea level) and 130 ft msl.
Purpose of the Water Service Authority Easement
- The Occoquan Reservoir is a major Northern Virginia drinking water
- The WSA Easement Policy helps protect the Occoquan River water
supply from inappropriate activities within the existing water supply
Why is this important?
About 172,000 Prince William residents, 80% of public water users,
depend on the Occoquan Reservoir for clean drinking water. The remaining
20% of Prince William’s public water users get clean drinking water from a
combination of the Occoquan Reservoir and the Potomac River.
Land use changes are the primary cause of degradation
of the Occoquan Reservoir.
Shoreline protection and buffers containing native
woody vegetation contribute significantly to shoreline protection, good water
quality conditions and habitat integrity.
Nearly 40% of Prince William lands drain directly to
the Occoquan Reservoir and 38% of the watershed population lives in Prince
What is land conservation along the Occoquan Reservoir
In the late 1950’s, Fairfax County conserved 5,000 acres along the shore of the
Bull Run-Occoquan River stream valley. This continuous strip of parkland,
managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, is a valuable
conservation area that protects wetlands, forests and the shoreline of the
William has developed the southern side of the Occoquan Reservoir. Lake Ridge
Park remains the single public access point. Demands from competing public uses
now threaten this Park with overuse.
- In the early 1980’s,
Fairfax County downzoned 41,000
acres of land to protect the Occoquan Reservoir. The downzoning limited
the number of houses that could be built required stringent treatment of
- Fairfax County designated their entire 64,500-acre portion of the
Occoquan Reservoir's watershed as the Water Supply Overlay Protection
District (WSPOD). Any development in this area that requires either a site
plan or a subdivision plan must comply with rigorous water quality
Why are vegetated buffers important?
Vegetated buffer areas are natural barriers of
existing or established perennial vegetation. These areas effectively separate
incompatible land uses and activities, and protect waterways from nonpoint
source pollution. Vegetated buffer areas have many conservation values
- Prevent shoreline erosion.
- Provide shade, which helps reduce alga growth and keeps summer
water temperatures cooler. Cooler water holds more oxygen, which is good
for aquatic life. Cooler water increases the stream’s capacity to
- Slow down stormwater runoff. This helps filter out sediments and
other pollution from upland land uses, and reduces turbidity.
- Provide habitat for fish and other aquatic life. Adjacent and
overhanging vegetation helps create a diversity of habitats, which
supports a diversity of aquatic life.
- Provide corridors that are needed for wildlife routes within and
between habitats. Many species of wildlife thrive in vegetated corridors
along water bodies.
- Preserve and enhance aquatic environments for hiking, camping,
fishing and boating.
- Provide cost effective protection to human land uses from flooding
and shoreline erosion problems.
- Scenic qualities provide visual contrast to more intensive
suburban land uses and increase property values.
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH TRASH IN THE OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR?
Litter is a big problem in Prince William County. Every year over
17,000 volunteers help clean up trash along Prince William roads and
creeks. Leesylvania State Park volunteers clear about 2 tons of trash from
the Neabsco Creek watershed every year. In addition, Public Works clean-up
crews pick up over 1.5 tons of litter every week.
Most litter (one type of nonpoint source pollution) travels a long
way before it reaches the Occoquan Reservoir. Most of the trash in the
Occoquan Reservoir is coming from throughout the watershed area. Litter in
Gainesville travels across land and through storm drains to nearby creeks.
Once the trash reaches the closest creek, it travels downstream until it
is either cleaned up, reaches a barrier or reaches the Occoquan Reservoir.
How can you help cluen up Prince William's Occoquan Reservoir watershed?
Illegal dump sites or roadways in particular need of litter
control – Call Prince William County Environmental Services at
703.792.6666 and they will schedule a crew to clean up the area.
Community Clean-ups – Call Prince William Clean Community Council
at 703.792.6272 to find out about groups conducting clean ups near your
Adopt-a-Stream – Call Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District at
703.594.3621 to find out how your family can adopt a stream.
Storm Drain Identification – Help community members understand that storm
drains connect to the closest creek, not the sewage treatment system. Call
the Prince William Conservation Alliance at 703.367.0069 to find out how
you can initiate a community project to mark neighborhood storm drains.