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Water: Water Quality Standards

Designated Uses

[Why are WQS Important?] [WQS Review and Revision] [Role of the Public] [Designated Uses] [Water Quality Criteria] [Antidegradation] [General Policies] [Indian Tribe Participation] [WQS Program History]


Water Quality Standards protect uses of water bodies including streams and wetlands. Find out more about these types of waters here!

The water quality standards regulation requires that States and authorized Indian Tribes specify appropriate water uses to be achieved and protected. Appropriate uses are identified by taking into consideration the use and value of the water body for public water supply, for protection of fish, shellfish, and wildlife, and for recreational, agricultural, industrial, and navigational purposes. In designating uses for a water body, States and Tribes examine the suitability of a water body for the uses based on the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the water body, its geographical setting and scenic qualities, and economic considerations. Each water body does not necessarily require a unique set of uses. Instead, the characteristics necessary to support a use can be identified so that water bodies having those characteristics can be grouped together as supporting particular uses.

Where water quality standards specify designated uses less than those which are presently being attained, the State or Tribe is required to revise its standards to reflect the uses actually being attained.

A use attainability analysis must be conducted for any water body with designated uses that do not include the "fishable/swimmable" goal uses identified in the section 101(a)(2) of the Act. Such water bodies must be reexamined every three years to determine if new information has become available that would warrant a revision of the standard. If new information indicates that "fishable/swimmable" uses can be attained, such uses must be designated.

UAAs: An Introduction to the tool, the process, and examples

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