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Water: Water Quality Standards Academy

Basic Course: Key Concepts

An Online Introductory Course


The Purpose of the Basic Course: Key Concepts Modules

To provide basic information on core topics of Water Quality Standards in 15 minutes each.


Coverage and Characteristics of the Basic Course: Key Concepts Modules

ET-013 (2 ladies in lab)

As an introduction, this online course focuses on the following six key WQS topics:

  • An overview of the water quality standards program that addresses how EPA and the States/Tribes work together toward Clean Water Act objectives. This module also introduces the components of a State/Tribe's water quality standards.
  • Designated uses of a water body (e.g., recreation, water supply, aquatic life, agriculture) and the difference between designed uses and existing uses. This module touches on options available to States/Tribes in defining designated uses.
  • Water quality criteria to protect designated uses (numeric pollutant concentrations and narrative requirements). This module addresses the purpose of water quality criteria, the different types, and how they are expressed.
  • Antidegradation policy to maintain and protect existing uses and high quality waters. This module considers requirements in addressing antidegradation questions and what EPA looks for in its review of a State/Tribe's antidegradation policy.
  • General flexibility policies to address implementation issues. This module looks at questions that a State/Tribe is likely to confront concerning, for instance, low flows, variances, and mixing zones.
  • EPA Review of State/Tribal water quality standards. EPA approval is required before a State/Tribe can use its standards as the basis for implementation actions under the Clean Water Act, such as establishing effluent limitations. The module also touches on the requirement that States/Tribes periodically review their water quality standards.

Each of these six modules is designed to be completed in about 15 minutes. The modules present text-based information across a sequence of pages that include user interactions, links to further information and resources, and brief video clips that expand on important points.

At the end of each module is a brief quiz with five or so questions intended to reinforce the information presented in the module. Each time you complete a module quiz, you are presented with a password. After completing all six modules, you can obtain your online Certificate of Completion by inputting the six passwords into an online form at the end of the course. (Note that quiz responses are not scored or recorded.)

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Beyond the Key Concepts: Basic Course Supplemental Topics

The following modules provide more in-depth information on aspects of water quality standards development:

  • Listing Impaired Waters and Developing TMDLs. Addresses the identification and prioritizing by states and tribes of their impaired or threatened waters and the development of pollutant loading analyses with a focus on meeting the state/tribe's water quality standards.
  • Monitoring & Assessment. Covers the role of monitoring and assessment in the implementation of clean water programs, including reporting on the condition of the Nation's waters and meeting the fishable/swimmable goals of the Clean Water Act.
  • NPDES Permit Program. Provides an overview of the regulatory program that authorizes the issuing of permits to control the discharge of pollutants from point sources into waters covered by a state or tribe's water quality standards.
  • Human Health Ambient Water Quality Criteria. Introduces concepts used in the development of human health ambient water quality criteria (AWQC) as well as the methods for deriving these criteria.
  • Aquatic Life Criteria. Introduces the procedures used in calculating numeric criteria to support protection of aquatic life as part of water quality standards.

Similar to the Key Concepts modules, the Supplemental Topics Modules present text-based information across a sequence of pages that include links to further information and resources and then a brief quiz at the end. Because these modules are supplemental, they are not associated with the Certificate of Completion earned by completing the Key Concepts modules.

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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