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Water: Total Maximum Daily Loads (303d)

Information Concerning 2012 Clean Water Act Sections 303(d), 305(b), and 314 Integrated Reporting and Listing Decisions

March 21, 2011





Information Concerning 2012 Clean Water Act Sections 303(d), 305(b), and 314 Integrated Reporting and Listing Decisions

Denise Keehner, Director /s/
Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds

Water Division Directors, Regions 1 – 10
Robert Maxfield, Director, Office of Environmental Measurement and Evaluation, Region 1
Deb Szaro, Director, Division of Environmental Science and Assessment, Region 2
Ron Hammerschmidt, Director, Environmental Sciences Division, Region 7
Joyce Kelly, Director, Office of Environmental Assessment, Region 10

I am pleased to provide you with information to assist in the preparation and review of the 2012 Integrated Reports (IR), in accordance with the Clean Water Action Sections 303(d), 305(b), and 314. This memorandum focuses on: 1) timeliness of State IR submissions and EPA approval; 2) Assessment and Total Maximum Daily Load Tracking and Implementation System (ATTAINS) data clarifications; 3) availability of recent EPA guidance on Ocean Acidification; and 4) EPA's intent to develop future guidance on how States can address antidegradation policies and procedures in their Section 303(d) programs. Over the coming months, EPA plans to evaluate options for an electronic consolidation of existing IR guidance documents in order to facilitate State consideration of existing EPA guidance and expectations. In addition, EPA plans to work with the States and Regions in the coming months to identify any issues that may necessitate further clarification such that the next IR memo can be provided to States well in advance of the 2014 reporting cycle.

This memorandum is not regulation and does not impose legally binding requirements on EPA or States. This guidance reiterates and clarifies previous guidance. EPA recommends that States prepare their 2012 IRs consistent with previous IR guidance including EPA's 2006 IR Guidance, which is supplemented by EPA's 2008 and 2010 IR memos and this memorandum.

I would like to thank the States, interstate commissions, and Regions for bringing these important issues to our attention and providing input on the information in this enclosure. I appreciate your continued hard work and dedication in developing the IRs so that EPA can report to the public the status of the nation's waters. If you have any questions or comments concerning this memorandum, please contact me or have your staff contact Shera Reems (reems.shera@epa.gov) at 202-566-1264.



Regional Section 303(d) Coordinators
  Regional Monitoring Coordinators
Regional   Water Quality Standards Coordinators
  Alexandra Dunn, Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators  

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  1. Timeliness  of State Integrated Report (IR) submissions and EPA approval

EPA's goal for the 2012 IR cycle is to  achieve 100 percent on-time IR submittals (all 56 States and Territories by  April 1, 2012) and EPA action on the States' Section 303(d) lists (within 30  days of the submission).  While EPA and  States made progress from the 2006 to the 2008 reporting cycle, this progress did  not continue with the 2010 reporting cycle.   For the 2008 reporting cycle, 38 States submitted their IRs by the end  of the fiscal year compared to 30 for the 2010 reporting cycle (see Figure 1).  Also, EPA action on States' Section 303(d)  lists fell short of the progress made in the 2008 reporting cycle.  For the 2010 reporting cycle, EPA has taken an  average of 95 days to approve a State's Section 303(d) list compared to 65 days  in the 2008 reporting cycle.  Of the 30  lists submitted to EPA by the end of FY 2010, EPA had only taken action on 19 lists  by the end of the calendar year.  Timely  submittal of IRs and EPA review and approval of States' Section 303(d) lists is  central to meet EPA and State responsibilities under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and  to evaluate EPA and State success in accomplishing our strategic plan goals to  restore and maintain the nation's waters. 

Timeline graph

Figure 1: Timeliness of State 2006, 2008, and 2010 IR Submissions

EPA recognizes that in the current  economic climate, State budgets and staff have been adversely impacted.  At the same time, both EPA and the States  need to continue best efforts to provide timely information on the status of  the nation's waters and lists of impaired waters.  In the Information  Concerning 2008 Clean Water Act Sections 303(d), 305(b), and 314 Integrated  Reporting and Listing Decisions,  EPA outlined several best practices used by States and Regions to help  facilitate improved timeliness of submission and review of water quality  reports and lists of impaired waters.  We  recommend that States and Regions refer back to these best practices and identify  areas in which it is feasible for improvements to be made.

Recognizing that one of the factors  affecting the timely submission and review of IR data is the lead time  necessary to develop the submission, EPA intends to work with the States to  issue relevant IR clarifications or guidance in the fall, a year and one half  preceding the April 1 deadline (e.g., issue EPA 2014 IR clarification  memorandum in the fall of 2012).

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  1. Assessment  and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Tracking and Implementation System  (ATTAINS)

Integrated Reporting data include State  water quality assessment decisions (attribute data) and geospatial data  representing the geographic locations of those assessed waters. This information is needed in order to  provide the public with a better understanding of the status of the nation's waters. EPA's ATTAINS database is the repository for State IR attribute data and the Reach Address Database contains State IR geospatial data. ATTAINS  includes state-reported information on support of designated uses in assessed  waters, identified causes and sources of impairment, identified impaired  waters, and TMDL status. ATTAINS  displays tables and charts summarizing these data for the nation, for  individual states and waters, and for each of the EPA Regions. It provides a water quality "story," showing  which waters have been assessed, which are impaired, and which have completed  plans (e.g., TMDLs) to help restore them.  ATTAINS provides water quality findings reported by the states since  2002. The mapping interface in ATTAINS  allows the user to "drill down" and identify if permitted facilities or water  quality monitoring data are near the area of interest.

EPA compiles State-submitted IR data to  develop and publish the National Water Quality Inventory Report to Congress (CWA  Section 305(b)); determine States' variable portion of the Section 106 grant  allocation formula; inform water quality decisions; and conduct national  analyses with various stakeholders to help restore the nation's waters.

  1. Clarification  of EPA's expectation for the scope of waters to be included in a State's  Integrated Report Data Submission for inclusion  in ATTAINS

EPA expects that States will  continue to submit their IR data to EPA in a manner that provides a full  refresh of the water quality attainment status of all assessed waters and documents  the availability of data and information for each water. States that report in this manner will  facilitate improved water quality assessment tracking from one reporting cycle  to the next and increased transparency of the status of the nation's waters. As a practical matter, EPA understands that a  State's IR data submission may only reflect more up-to-date information on  those waters assessed in the targeted areas for the reporting cycle and that information  for those waters in the non-targeted areas, while included in the IR data  submission, may remain largely unchanged from the previous reporting cycle. For example, for the 2010 reporting cycle for  a theoretical State, assessment units A, B, and C were assessed as "attaining  water quality standards."  For the 2012  reporting cycle for this theoretical State, assessment units X, Y, Z, and A  were assessed as "attaining water quality standards" and assessment units B and  C were not assessed. Under this  scenario, the theoretical State's 2012 IR data submission would show assessment  units A, B, C, X, Y, and Z as "attaining water quality standards."

  1. Clarification  of EPA's expectation for Section 305(b) "off-year" updates

Integrated Reports satisfy the reporting  requirements under CWA Sections 303(d), 305(b), and 314 to submit biennial  reports related to water quality. At  this time, any "off-year" annual updates to Section 305(b) data submitted to EPA  headquarters for entry into the ATTAINS database will not be reflected in  ATTAINS web reports, until the full, two year updates to Section 305(b) data  are received as stand-alone submissions or as part of an IR.

CWA Section 205(j) requires States to determine the  nature, extent, and causes of water quality problems in various areas of the State  and interstate region, and report on these annually (CWA §205(j)(1)(C)), 40 C.F.R. 130.6(c)). CWA regulations provide that in the  years in which it is prepared, the Section 305(b) report satisfies the  requirement for the annual water quality report under Section 205(j) (40 C.F.R. 130.8(d)).  Furthermore, in years when the Section 305(b) report is not required,  the State may satisfy the annual Section 205(j) report requirement by  certifying that the most recently submitted Section 305(b) report is current or  by supplying newer information for those sections that require an update of the  most recently submitted Section 305(b) report (40 CFR 130.8(d)). For example, State X's 2012 IR or Section  305(b) submission could fulfill the "off-year" update in 2013 if certification  is documented by a letter, or by a condition in the Section 106 work plan, or  by a Performance Partnership Grant that indicates: "In accordance with the Information Concerning 2012 Clean Water Act  Sections 303(d), 305(b), and 314 Integrated Reporting and Listing Decisions,  the [Insert State and Department] certifies that the 2012 IR [or Section 305(b)  submission] is current and satisfies the Section 205(j) report requirement."

  To satisfy the conditions of the Section 106(e)(1)  annual update requirement, States may submit annual water quality updates via  the Water Quality Exchange (WQX) to the STOrage and RETrieval (STORET) national  warehouse.

For additional information, please see the Guidance  for 2006 Assessment, Listing, and Reporting Requirements Pursuant to Sections  303(d), 305(b), and 314 of the Clean Water Act.

  1. Information  update on using and reporting Statewide Statistical Survey Data in ATTAINS, and  the National Water Quality Inventory Report to Congress

Under the CWA Section 106 Monitoring  Initiative, EPA and States work together to increase the effectiveness of State  monitoring programs through enhancements including, among many State  priorities, implementation of State-wide statistical surveys. Meeting the range of CWA monitoring and  assessment needs requires the application of both State-wide statistical  surveys and site-specific targeted monitoring.  State inclusion of statistical survey designs to increase the percent of  waters assessed under CWA Section 305(b) continues to grow. The number of States that conduct State-wide  statistical surveys as a component of their State monitoring program increased  from 30 to 45 between January 2008 and March 2011.

For the 2012 reporting cycle, EPA  requests that States report their State-wide statistical survey findings. To report State-wide statistical survey  results, we ask States to use the spreadsheet found in Appendix 1. This information will be made available in  the ATTAINS database and Web site and will be incorporated into the national  tally of assessment findings reported by States and summarized in the National  Water Quality Inventory Report to Congress prepared under CWA Section  305(b). See how the State-wide  statistical survey results will be presented in ATTAINS along with the targeted  attainment decisions.

  1. Information on the data systems EPA  will support for tracking assessment decisions for inclusion in ATTAINS

EPA has the responsibility to report on  the status of the nations waters, share this information with the public and  other interested parties, and prepare a biennial National Water Quality  Inventory Report to Congress. Data  management of water quality assessment decisions is key to analyzing and sharing  data across water programs and measuring progress in EPAs Strategic Plan.

To ensure the timely  submission of IR data, States should ensure consistency between their Section 303(d)  and Section 305(b) assessment decisions and associated reports and electronic  data submitted to EPA for review and approval. EPA Regions and States should work together during the review of the IR to  ensure that any corrections to the report are also made to the associated  electronic data. EPA expects that the  associated electronic data, including geospatial data, should be provided by  States with their final IR submission.

EPA recognizes that States  need flexibility in the tools that they use to collect and report IR data. As such, for the 2012 reporting cycle, EPA will  continue to support the existing tools, EPA Assessment Database (ADB), and State  compatible assessment databases. Additionally, EPA will support the Exchange  Network (EN) Office of Water Integrated Reporting (OWIR) data flow. As mentioned in the previous section,  beginning with the 2012 reporting cycle, States that conduct State-wide  statistical surveys should report this information along with their IR using  the template provided in Appendix 1. For  information on these tools, please visit the following Web sites or appendices:

EPA recommends that States use the  Hydrography Event Management (HEM) Tool, based in ArcGIS 9.x, for managing  assessed and impaired water events. EPA  will continue to support geodatabase or shapefile geospatial data formats, or  files sent via the EN utilizing the NHDEvent data flow. For States that are interested in using the EN  for submitting their geospatial data and that are also using the HEM Tool to  manage their geospatial events locally, there is a tool called "HEM to NHDEvent  XML Conversion Tool" (HEM2XML) that converts geospatial events into the EN NHDEvent  format. For more information on these  tools, please visit the following Web sites:

EPA recognizes that the  creation and maintenance of the geospatial data at the current level of  precision can be resource intensive. Therefore, EPA is exploring alternatives to streamline the process for collecting,  processing, and displaying geospatial data. EPA welcomes innovative ideas for streamlining geospatial data  processing. For the 2012 reporting  cycle, EPA proposes to work with States interested in piloting the submission  of latitude/longitude coordinates for its assessed and impaired waters. The goal of this effort is to determine if  this latitude/longitude approach will ease the State burden in delivering  location data for assessed and impaired waters where geodatabases or shapefiles  are not available, and still allow for the level of  analysis conducted by EPA and other stakeholders. EPA will work with States interested in piloting the latitude/longitude  approach to determine the type of data that needs to be collected by States and  submitted to EPA, such as latitude and longitude coordinates and Federal  Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) compliant metadata, extent of the assessment  unit, and a unique identifier that links the location to the attribute  data. Interested States should contact their  Regional IR representative and Wendy Reid (reid.wendy@epa.gov)  by May 1, 2011.

  1. Information on ATTAINS improvements for the 2014 reporting cycle and information on the data standard

EPA has received considerable feedback from States on the need to improve the IR reporting process, reduce the reporting burden, reduce the data review and process time, and better enable data sharing via the Exchange Network. EPA therefore plans to initiate a process to improve IR reporting for the 2014 reporting cycle. In preparation, EPA will work with States to discuss plans and identify solutions for creating a data standard and improving the tools used for submitting, reviewing, and displaying IR data. EPA will engage both program and IT staff to participate and shape the future direction of the IR reporting process.

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  1. Ocean Acidification Memorandum

On November 15, 2010, EPA issued a Memorandum to assist the States and Regions in preparing and reviewing IRs related to ocean acidification (OA) impacts under CWA Sections 303(d), 305(b), and 314. This Memorandum recognizes the seriousness of aquatic life impacts associated with OA and describes how States can move forward, where OA information exists, to address OA during the 2012 reporting cycle. This Memorandum reaffirms that States should list waters not meeting water quality standards, including marine pH water quality criteria, and should also solicit existing and readily available information on OA using the current Section 303(d) listing program framework.  This Memorandum does not elevate in priority the assessment and listing of waters for OA, but simply recognizes that waters should be listed for OA when data are available. EPA recognizes that information is largely absent or limited for OA parameters and impacts at this point in time, and therefore, listings for OA may be absent or limited in many States.

EPA will provide additional guidance to the States when future OA research efforts provide the basis for improved monitoring and assessment methods, including approaches being developed under other Federal efforts.  This future guidance may be in the form of stand-alone IR guidance, or as part of future EPA biennial IR updates. EPA encourages States to focus their efforts on OA vulnerable waters (e.g., waters with coral reefs, marine fisheries, and shellfish resources) that are already listed for other pollutants (e.g., nutrients) in order to promote ecological restoration.

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  1. Antidegradation and Listing Guidance

Antidegradation is an integral component of a State water quality  standard (i.e., designated uses; criteria to meet those uses; and  antidegradation policies) that focuses on maintaining and protecting the  chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters, consistent  with the CWA and its implementing regulations. CWA Section 303(d) and EPA's implementing regulations require States to  identify waters not meeting any applicable water quality standard (CWA  §303(d)(1)(A), 40 C.F.R. 130.7(b)(3)). EPA's listing regulations specify that "applicable water quality  standards" refer to criteria, designated uses, and antidegradation requirements (40 CFR 130.7(b)(3)).

Most State water quality assessments have focused on whether  numeric and narrative water quality criteria are being attained, and typically,  these assessments capture where waters are most in need of restoration. However, by also considering whether waters  are meeting antidegradation requirements, it may be possible to identify waters  that are not meeting the antidegradation portion of water quality standards. By assessing waters in this manner, there is  a greater opportunity to protect human health and wildlife values, achieve  healthy watersheds, and fulfill in a more cost-effective manner the CWA's primary  objective to restore and maintain the nation's waters.

EPA intends to work with States and other stakeholders to develop  guidance on how best to assess and identify waters to determine whether State  antidegradation requirements have been attained. This future guidance may be in the form of  stand-alone IR guidance, or as part of future EPA biennial IR updates. States with a particular interest in this  issue should contact EPA's Rosaura Conde (conde.rosaura@epa.gov).

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