How Much of Virginia is Water?

land and water area of Virginia
Source: "Land and Water Area for the U.S., Virginia, and Surrounding States: 2000"
in Section 8: Virginia Statistical Abstract,
Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, University of Virginia

We're not all wet... we're just 7-8% wet. Virginia has, in square miles:1

Total Area42,775
  1,006 Inland - All lakes, reservoirs, ponds, rivers, streams, creeks, or similar bodies of water
  1,728 Coastal - Any embayments across which one can draw a closure line from 1 to 24 nautical miles in length (inland from the point at which the closure line is one mile or less, the water is treated as inland water). This line separates the coastal water from the territorial sea. For example, the coastal water of the Chesapeake Bay extends from this closure line towards the shoreline, and ends where the bay and its tributaries narrow to less than one nautical mile, at which point the water becomes classified as inland water.
  447 Territorial Waters - located between the line of Coastal Waters out to three miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The edge of United States Territorial Waters was extended from 3 miles out to 12 miles in 1988, based on the authority of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, but state ownership stops at the 3 mile limit.

Official Federal and state measurements of the area of coastal/territorial waters are approximations. The line of Coastal Waters is based on paper maps, measured before computers and Geographic Information System technology. According to official government records, in 1948 Virginia had 112 miles of "coastline" (general outline of the seacoast). In 1940, however, more-detailed measurements from larger-scale charts and maps (tracing the indentations of bays and river mouths, and including the Chesapeake Bay) showed Virginia had 3,315 miles of tidal shoreline.2


1. Statistical Abstract of the United States, US Bureau of Census, Geography and Environment Table 358, "Land and Water Area of States and Other Entities: 2008," (last checked September 9, 2012)
2. "National Atlas," US Geologic Survey, (last checked March 2, 2009)

Rivers and Watersheds
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