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Water: Aquatic Life

Aquatic Life Criteria

An EPA recommended ambient water quality criterion for aquatic life or National Recommended Water Quality Criterion is the level of a pollutant or other measurable parameter that allows for protection of aquatic life in our nation's water.  These aquatic life criteria are developed under Section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Water quality criteria are developed by assessing the relationship between pollutants and their effect on aquatic life. These criteria are used by states and tribes to establish water quality standards and ultimately provide a basis for controlling discharges or releases of pollutants.

An aquatic life criterion is the highest concentration of a pollutant or parameter in water that is not expected to pose a significant risk to the majority of species in a given environment.

National water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic organisms and their uses:

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Current Criteria

Guidelines for deriving numeric criteria

EPA Science Advisory Board activities related to Guidelines revisions

Criteria Development Training

Standards Development training page covers the purpose and basis of water quality criteria, how criteria are expressed, what different criteria types are, and how criteria is protective.

Other information

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