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Water: Water Quality Standards

Fact Sheet — Release 9.0

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

This is the final release of the WQSDB—it will not be updated. (For future plans, see the Release 9 Fact Sheet.) You can see the WQS documents upon which the WQSDB information was based and access state WQS program webpages. You are also able to download pre-formatted reports, and copies of the database.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

December 2007

EPA has developed a National Water Quality Standards Database (WQSDB) to improve public access to information on how the waters they care about are being protected, and how actions in their watershed can help or harm those waters. The on-line database consists of a compilation of "designated uses," used by each state to describe the functions each waterbody is intended to support—fishing, swimming, drinking water source, or some other use. For some states, tribes, and territories, tables and maps of uses are also available. Information on state water quality standards.

The WQSDB has been archived. You can access this database directly.

Status of Tables and Maps by State

The December 2007 update on the Internet of the WQSDB includes state approved information on designated uses for 50 states, the District of Columbia, two territories, and one tribe. Of those, 33 jurisdictions also have tables of designated uses by waterbody, and of those 30 also have maps of those uses. New or updated data for 11 jurisdictions are shown in bold type. In addition, for all states, criteria values have been added to a subset of designated uses.

States with Approved Tables (T) and/or Maps (M) Associated to Waterbodies

  • Arizona (T, M)
  • Colorado (T, M)
  • Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (T, M)
  • Connecticut (T, M)
  • Delaware (T, M)
  • District of Columbia (T, M)
  • Florida (T, M)
  • Idaho (T, M)
  • Illinois (T, M)
  • Indiana (T, M)
  • Iowa (T, M)
  • Kentucky (T, M)
  • Louisiana (T, M)
  • Minnesota (T, M)
  • Mississippi (T, M)
  • Missouri (T, M)
  • Montana (T, M)
  • Nebraska (T, M)
  • Nevada (T, M)
  • New Mexico (T, M)
  • North Dakota (T, M)
  • Ohio (T, M)
  • Oklahoma (T)
  • Pennsylvania (T, M)
  • Rhode Island (T)
  • South Carolina (T, M)
  • South Dakota (T, M)
  • Tennessee (T, M)
  • Texas (T)
  • Utah (T, M)
  • Virgin Islands (T, M)
  • Virginia (T, M)
  • West Virginia (T, M)

States with Approved Designated Uses Spreadsheets Not Currently Associated to Waterbodies

  • Alaska
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Puerto Rico
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

The above jurisdictions have approved Designated Uses Spreadsheet (DUS) but the uses have not been associated to specific waterbodies. A DUS provides designated use and class definitions and codes (where applicable) that can be used by other databases. The DU descriptions for these states can be seen in the reports, under Designated Use and Waterbody Data Across States" and Designated Use and Class Data by National DU.

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Support of Water Programs

The WQS Program is coordinating with the Assessment Program to facilitate comparison of monitoring data and water quality standards to conduct assessments. The WQSDB provides the common database definitions and codes for use by the Assessment Database (ADB). The ADB provides a tool for reporting on the assessments of water quality, including use attainment, and causes and sources of impairment. The WQSDB provides definitions and codes (using state definitions and codes wherever available) in the Designated Uses Spreadsheet (DUS). The ADB can utilize these identified uses for reporting assessment results.

The WQS Program is also coordinating with the Drinking Water Program to facilitate the validation of WQS with the National Public Drinking Water Program for surface waters used as source water. This effort will provide for all states a subset of the data about uses and criteria that support drinking water quality.

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Plan for Transition from a Centralized EPA WQSDB to a Distributed Set of State Databases

EPA's Geographic Information System Template to Provide Internet Access to Water Quality Standards Nation-wide

The Agency is assisting interested states in establishing and operating state-level Water Quality Standards Databases that provide access to Water Quality Standards information.

Water Quality Standards (WQS) are goals for protecting water quality and uses (e.g., fishing, swimming). WQS include the use, the criteria (concentration of pollutants that should not be exceeded), and policies to administer the program.

Direct access to such information has many benefits, including more informed public participation in the WQS process envisioned by the Clean Water Act. It also aids states, tribes, and territories ("states") and EPA staff in developing and applying appropriate water quality goals in Clean Water Act regulatory programs.

We have developed a Water Quality Standards Database (WQSDB) that organizes and displays state, tribal, and territorial water quality standards information for surface waters in the U.S. The WQSDB enables states to make tables and maps of surface water quality standards data available to the public.

The WQSDB provides a template that displays the unique features of a WQS program in a nationally compatible structure. This provides each state with an efficient tool to display, in table and map form, their WQS and criteria, and to show how new or revised WQS that may affect or be affected by an adjacent state. The WQSDB template also allows all states to see how other states develop their WQS program, and, in the future, adopt them for their own state.

EPA no longer currently provides public access to the WQSDB. The database (and repository) contains regulations for all states, tables of uses for 54 states, and maps for 30 states. Maps can be seen on EPA's EnviroMapper web site.

EPA offers assistance to those and other interested states to establish and operate a state-level WQSDB by providing a database template for them to populate with their own WQS data. Future assistance may include providing all states with the capability to exchange data among these individual systems and EPA.

In order to implement this transition to make copies of the WQSDB available to the States to enable display and sharing of data nationally, EPA is planning the following steps:

  • Develop a pilot Template of the WQSDB for operation locally by a state, begin transition to a distributed database structure (e.g., maintained by states); document and archive the Internet version of the WQSDB.
  • Complete work with a pilot state to transition to the distributed database, complete the Template WQSDB (standard outreach, training, and installation package) for operation locally by a state, and begin to work with additional volunteer states.
  • Work with individual states to transition to the distributed database structure, work with individual states that want to adopt a WQSDB Template rather than designing their own database.

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For More Information

For more information or comments on the WQSDB, please contact Bill Kramer at (202) 566-0385 (kramer.bill@epa.gov).

Maps can be accessed from Enviromapper, which allows information like designated uses to be shown on water body maps from the National Hydrography Dataset, maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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