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Water: Water Quality Standards Academy

Aquatic Life Criteria

Aquatic Life Criteria

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Introduction: What's Covered in This Module?

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Aquatic life criteria are estimates of concentrations of pollutants in ambient water that—if not exceeded—are expected to protect fish, invertebrates, and other aquatic life from adverse effects associated with exposure. This module introduces methods used by EPA to derive ambient water quality criteria for aquatic life (ALC). (Ambient refers to open waters such as rivers, lakes, and streams, in contrast to closed water systems used for distributing treated water or wastewater.)   

In particular, this module provides answers to the following:

  • What is EPA’s role under the Clean Water Act regarding the development of aquatic life criteria?
  • What data are needed for developing criteria?
  • What steps and types of calculations are involved in establishing criteria?

States and authorized Tribes need to address aquatic life criteria in their water quality standards as well as human health, nutrient, and biological criteria. A module in the Key Concepts section of this online training provides an introduction to criteria development, and a Supplemental Topics module focuses on deriving human health criteria. Online modules to address derivation of other criteria are planned for the future.

At the end of the module is a brief quiz intended to touch on aspects of ALC derivation. The topic is further examined in the classroom session of this module.

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This module's main pages and brief quiz at the end take about 30 minutes to complete.

Disclaimer: This online course presentation and any associated links have been prepared by EPA staff for informational purposes only. Their sole purpose is to make available training online from recent Water Quality Standards Academy classroom courses. As such, this online course and any associated links are not binding on EPA or the public and have no legal effect. They do not constitute an EPA statute, regulation or other requirement and do not substitute for such authorities. In addition, the course and any associated links have not been reviewed or endorsed by EPA management. Thus, they are not intended or written as official statements of EPA’s scientific views, policies, guidance, or requirements and cannot be used or cited as evidence of EPA’s position on any matter.

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