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Water: Water Quality Standards

Policy & Guidance - Fact Sheet


United States
Environmental Protection
Agency
Office of Water
4304
EPA-823-F-98-011
April 1998


Water Quality Criteria and Standards Plan--Priorities for the Future

The U.S. EPA, Office of Science and Technology in the Office of Water announces a Plan for working together with the States and Tribes to enhance and improve the water quality criteria and standards program across the Country.

What is the Plan?

The Plan, called the "Water Quality Criteria and Standards Plan--Priorities for the Future", describes six new criteria and standards program initiatives that EPA and the States and Tribes will take over the next decade.

The Plan presents a "vision" and strategy for meeting these important new initiatives and improvements. The Plan will guide EPA and the States and Tribes in the development and implementation of criteria and standards and will provide a basis for enhancements to the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting, nonpoint source control, wetlands protection and other water resources management efforts.

The Plan helps to prepare the foundation for many of the clean water initiatives announced in the President's Clean Water Action Plan in February 1998.

The "Vision" of the Plan

The water quality criteria and standards program will fully integrate biocriteria, nutrient criteria and microbial pathogen control with improved chemical-specific and whole effluent toxicity criteria into a water quality criteria and standards program that better ensures the protection of human health and the maintenance and improvement of the Nation's waters. Possible future criteria initiatives for excessive sedimentation, flow and wildlife will be investigated.

Priority Areas of the Plan

The Office of Water will emphasize and focus on the following priority areas for the Criteria and Standards Program over the next decade:

  • Developing Nutrient Criteria and assessment methods to better protect aquatic life and human health
  • Developing criteria for Microbial Pathogens to better protect human health during water recreation
  • Completing the development of Biocriteria as an improved basis for aquatic life protection
  • Maintaining and strengthening the existing Ambient Water Quality Criteria for water and sediments
  • Evaluating possible criteria initiatives for Excessive Sedimentation, Flow Alterations and Wildlife
  • Developing improved water quality Modeling Tools to better translate water quality standards into implementable control strategies
  • Ensuring Implementation of these new initiatives and improvements by the States and Tribes in partnership with EPA

Why is the Plan Necessary?

The National surface water quality protection program is at an important juncture. The initiatives described in the Plan are needed to better protect aquatic life and the recreational uses of the Nation's waters. Over the past two decades, State and Tribal water quality standards and water quality-based management approaches have relied upon aquatic life use designations and protective criteria based primarily upon narrative, chemical-specific and whole effluent toxicity methodologies. Using these approaches, outstanding progress has been made. However, not all of the Nation's waters have achieved the Clean Water Act goal of "fishable and swimmable", and significant water pollution problems still exist. Approximately 40 percent of the Nation's waters still do not meet water quality goals and about half of the Nation's 2000 major watersheds have water quality problems.

Given these facts, there is an essential need for improved water quality standards. Adding nutrient criteria and biological criteria to the water quality criteria and standards program ensures further improvements in maintaining and restoring aquatic life. Improved human health criteria will better protect against bioaccumulative pollutants and new microbial pathogen controls will better protect human health (especially that of children) during water related recreation. Better tools also are needed for controlling excessive sedimentation, flow alterations and for protecting wildlife. The new initiatives discussed in the Plan also will help to promote water resources management on a watershed basis in support of the President's Clean Water Action Plan.

What Does the Plan Say?

The Plan briefly describes the water quality issues and concerns that the new criteria initiatives will address. For each initiative, the Plan explains the key objective(s) to be accomplished, the critical activities necessary to achieve the objectives, and the roles of the States and Tribes in implementing the Plan. The Plan commits that all objectives and activities will be accomplished by the end of the decade.

More Information on the Plan

For more information on the Plan please contact:

William F. Swietlik
U.S. EPA - Office of Water
Office of Science and Technology
Health and Ecological Criteria Division (4304T)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20460
swietlik.william@epamail.epa.gov

or

Jennifer Wigal
U.S. EPA - Office of Water
Office of Science and Technology
Standards and Health Protection Division (4305T)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20460
wigal.jennifer@epamail.epa.gov

 


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