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Water: Handbook

Water Quality Standards Handbook

NEW IN 2014: UPDATED CHAPTERS

The Water Quality Standards Handbook is a compilation of the EPA's water quality standards (WQS) program guidance including recommendations for states, authorized tribes, and territories in reviewing, revising, and implementing WQS. The guidance in this Handbook supports the EPA’s WQS regulations at 40 CFR Part 131.

The Water Quality Standards Handbook was first issued in 1983 and provided a compilation of the EPA's WQS guidance to-date.

In 1994, The Water Quality Standards Handbook: Second Edition was issued and retained all of the guidance in the 1983 Handbook unless such guidance was specifically revised in subsequent years. The 1994 Handbook also contained new EPA guidance that was developed between 1983 and 1994.

In 2007 and 2012, the EPA updated the online version of the Handbook to incorporate minor enhancements including links to additional information and resources that the EPA developed subsequent to 1994. However, the text of the chapters did not change from the 1994 Handbook.

In 2014, the EPA updated the online version of the Handbook to reflect current EPA guidance and streamlined the text to make the document more user friendly.

The 2014 update also reflects current technology that allows the Handbook to serve as an online "living document." As such, the EPA will update the online Handbook as new guidance becomes available and will not publish a new printed edition.

For any questions related to the guidance in this Handbook, please contact us. Copies of any referenced document can be obtained by clicking on the hyperlink or visiting the Policy and Guidance: Reference Library webpage.

Browse the Water Quality Standards Handbook

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.


Search the Water Quality Standards Handbook


Find Specific Water Quality Standards Regulations and Other Documents

The Policy and Guidance: Reference Library webpage contains an index of EPA documents related to WQS including those referenced in this Handbook. You can sort the index alphabetically, by publication date, or by topic

The Water Quality Standards Regulations and Federally Promulgated Standards webpage contains links to federal WQS regulations, Administrator’s determinations, proposed federal WQS standards, promulgations, and withdrawals published in the Federal Register.

EPA regional offices may have additional guidance that provides more detail on selected topics of regional interest. For information on regional guidance, contact the appropriate regional WQS coordinator.


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