When it comes to water quality problems brought on by watershed land-use patterns, Virginia’s Stroubles Creek has it all backwards.

The town of Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech campus dominate the creek’s upper watershed, bringing on water quality problems associated with urbanization that have landed the creek on the state’s list of impaired waters. But downstream of campus, the watershed turns to forest and the stream “fixes itself,” according to W. Cully Hession, a professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech.