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Water: Module 2

Basic Course: Key Concepts (Module 2.a)

Introduction: The Uses of a Water Body

Module 2. Designated Uses

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The "use" of a water body is the most fundamental articulation of its role in the aquatic and human environments.

The "designated" uses of a water body are an expression of goals for the water, such as supporting aquatic life and human activities, including recreation and use as a public water supply. That is, these uses may not currently be attained for the water body.


Key Point. Designated uses are those uses specified in water quality standards for each water body or segment whether or not they are being attained.


Video Clip View a 2-minute video clip from the classroom session about EPA and States/Tribes working together on water quality.


Key Point. The concept of a water body having designated uses—that is, desirable and attainable uses as defined in this module—is central to establishing appropriate water quality standards (63 FR 36749, July 7, 1998).

A water body's designated uses are important because:

  • Taken together, they articulate the vision for the water body.
  • They establish the water quality management goals for the water body.
  • If they are wrong, everything else is wrong.

Key Point. Designated uses are incorporated into State/Tribal law. They are used to determine water quality criteria, which serve as the basis for discharge permit limits.

For informational purposes only–Not official statements of EPA policy.

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