The City of Portsmouth was settled in 1752 and incorporated by the Virginia General Assembly in 1858. Over 250 years old, the city is home to one of the world's greatest natural harbors, situated on the James and Elizabeth Rivers, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay. Portsmouth, with a land area of approximately 30 square miles and a population of 100,565 people is located in the hub of the Hampton Roads Region. It is bordered by the cities of Chesapeake and Suffolk respectively to the south and west, and by the City of Norfolk to the east.
With 90 miles of shoreline at the zero milepost of the Intercoastal Waterway, which runs from Boston to Florida, Portsmouth's location on navigable waterways has been a dominant force in the City's history and economy. Its location on the over 40 feet deep Hampton Roads shipping channel, and the presence of both the CSX and Norfolk Southern Railroads supports the national and international port commerce activities and military presence in the region.
Portsmouth derives its governing authority from a charter granted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The governing body of the City is the City Council, which formulates policies for the administration of the City. The City's charter provides for a Council-Manager form of government.
There is no overlapping debt or taxing powers with other political subdivisions. The water and sewer systems are operated on a self-supporting basis.