What is a Watershed?



Watershed wa-ter-shed | noun
Also known as a drainage basin, it is an area of land where all water drains to a central point like a particular lake, river, or stream. When rain flows over a surface, it will eventually make its way to that central point.


Virginia Beach has a very complex system of watersheds. Each has its own history and beauty and for the network of our waterways that shape our land and our lives. In Virginia Beach there are nine secondary watersheds that make up three primary watersheds, the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean and Albemarle-Pamlico Sounds.

In Virginia Beach, the northern and more urbanized portions, 31% of the city, drain into the Chesapeake Bay. The central, southern and more rural areas which make up 66% of the city drain to the Albemarle-Pamlico Sounds (Southern Rivers) primary watershed. The remaining 3% portion of the city located along the coast drains to the Atlantic Ocean primary watershed.

Primary Watersheds 

Primary Watershed  Approximate Acreage Percent of City
Chesapeake Bay  61,000 31%

Albemarle-Pamlico Sounds (Southern Rivers)

130,000 66%
Atlantic Ocean 5,500 3%
Total Area 196,500 100%

Source: City of Virginia Beach Department of Planning and Community Development 

What Primary & Secondary Watersheds do you live in? 

Use your mouse or keypad to hover over Virginia Beach’s watersheds on the map below. Click on the highlighted area to learn more about each individual watershed!

Primary Watersheds Secondary Watersheds

Virginia Beach Watersheds

Virginia Beach Watersheds
Elizabeth River (Eastern Branch) Little Creek Back Bay Owl's Creek-Rudee inlet Lynnhaven River North Landing River Northwest River Ocean Coastal Bay Coastal

Owl's Creek-Rudee inlet

Owl's Creek runs behind the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center and joins the Rudee Inlet to flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Rudee and Owl Creek are salty like the ocean and the home to many ocean going boats. The watershed contains several neighborhoods and forms the southern part of the resort area.

 The interactive watershed address finder map developed by the Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) is a great tool to use to find your watershed. Once you type in the address, look at the map and you’ll see a red dot locating your address.  Zoom in on the map and then click on the area within the brown boundary where your location is.  A box will pop up with the State’s name of the watershed.

*Please note: Southern Rivers Watershed is also referred to as the Albemarle-Pamlico Sounds Watershed. 


PEARL HOMES are places where people care about our environment and want to do what they can to help protect our resources.

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Lynnhaven River NOW recognizes schools providing outstanding environmental education as a Pearl School.

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PEARL BUSINESSES are essential to truly move towards a more sustainable Virginia Beach and cleaner waters.

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We all want to do our part to restore the health of all of our sacred waterways and protect them for future generations to enjoy.

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SUSTAINABLE YARDS PROGRAM: Let us help you “green” your Lynnhaven watershed home. This unique program provides specific stormwater management practices to your yard at a significantly reduced cost to you.

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