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Water: State, Tribal & Territorial Standards

Repository of Documents: California

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The following links provide information about California water quality standards.


State Water Resources Control Board

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) was created by the California State Legislature in 1967. The joint authority of water allocation and water quality protection enables the State Water Board to provide comprehensive protection for California's waters.

Regional Water Quality Control Boards

There are nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Boards) with the mission to develop and enforce water quality objectives and implementation plans that will best protect the beneficial uses of the State’s waters, recognizing local differences in climate, topography, geology and hydrology. California’s water quality standards are embodied in Basin Plans administered by these Regional Water Quality Control Boards and in several statewide Plans and Policies administered by the State Water Resources Control Board. Amendments to a Basin Plan, prepared by the Regional Boards, are reviewed by the State Board and the State’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL). Once approved, the amendments are submitted to EPA for final approval.

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Federal Rules Applicable to California

Federal Regulations, 40 CFR 131.41
(Effective December 16, 2004) Federal regulations establishing bacteria criteria for coastal and Great Lakes waters. This regulation is also known as the Beach Rule.
Federal Regulations, 40 CFR 131.36
Toxics criteria for those states not complying with Clean Water Act section 303(c)(2)(B). This federal regulation establishes water quality criteria for certain toxic pollutants. The regulation is also known as the National Toxics Rule.
Federal Regulations, 40 CFR 131.37
Federal regulation establishing water quality criteria applicable to waters specified in the Water Quality Control Plan for Salinity for the San Francisco Bay/San Joaquin Delta Estuary.
Federal Regulations, 40 CFR 131.38
Federal regulation promulgates water quality criteria for priority toxic pollutants in the State of California for inland surface waters and enclosed bays and estuaries. This section also contains a compliance schedule. 40 CFR 131.38 is also known as the "California Toxics Rule" or "CTR".

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State-Wide Policies

Water Quality Control Plan for the Ocean Waters of California (California Ocean Plan) (PDF) (49 pp, 626K)
(Effective December 3, 2001) This plan is applicable, in its entirety, to point source discharges into the ocean.
Memorandum from State Water Resources Control Board on Federal Antidegradation Policy (PDF) (18 pp, 1.1MB)
(Effective October 7, 1987) This memorandum is intended to provide guidance on the application of the federal antidegradation policy to actions by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) and California Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Boards).
Water Quality Control Policy (PDF) (4 pp, 195K)
(Effective July 6, 1972) This document provides the state policy for water quality control including 12 general principles that all water resources management programs should follow as well as the program of implementation.
Water Quality Standards for Salinity, Colorado River System, October 2005 Review (PDF) (80 pp, 976K)
(Effective June 1, 2006) Prepared by the seven-state Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum, this document is a review of the water quality standards including the numeric criteria and plan of implementation previously developed and adopted by the Forum.
Policy for Implementation of Toxics Standards for Inland Surface Waters, Enclosed Bays, and Estuaries of California (2005) (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer (64 pp, 1.5MB)
(Effective October 23, 2006) This document is commonly referred to as the "State Implementation Plan", or "SIP". On October 23, 2006, EPA disapproved portions of Section 2.1 of the Policy related specifically to the granting of compliance schedules up to 15 years from the effective date of the policy to take into account the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for Clean Water Act Section 303(d) impaired waters.
Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary (PDF) (51 pp, 1.5MB)
(Effective May 1995) The purpose of this plan is to establish water quality control measures which contribute to the protection of beneficial uses in the Bay-Delta Estuary. This plan consists of: (1) beneficial uses to be protected; (2) water quality objectives for the reasonable protection of beneficial uses; and (3) a program of implementation for achieving the water quality objectives.
Statement of Policy with Respect to Maintaining High Quality Waters in California
(Effective October 24, 1968) The purpose of this policy is to state that whenever the existing quality of water is better than the quality established in policies that such existing high quality will be maintained.
Water Quality Control Policy for the Enclosed Bays and Estuaries of California (PDF) (14 pp, 466K)
(Effective April 1979) The purpose of this policy is to provide water quality principles and guidelines to prevent water quality degradation and to protect the beneficial uses of waters of enclosed bays and estuaries.
Water Quality Control Plan for Enclosed Bays and Estuaries - Part 1 Sediment Quality (PDF) (38 pp, 754K)
(Effective August 25, 2009) The plan provides narrative sediment quality objectives protecting benthic communities from direct exposure to pollutants in sediments and minimizing human health risk from consumption of fish and shellfish tissue that may pose a risk as a result of contaminants in sediment. The plan also includes a description of the applicable beneficial uses, a description of how the narrative objectives may be interpreted and the means by which these narrative objectives shall be applied to existing water quality protection plans.
Water Quality Control Policy on the Use and Disposal of Inland Waters Used for Powerplant Cooling
(Effective June 19, 1975) The purpose of this policy is to provide consistent statewide water quality principles and guidance for adoption of discharge requirements, and implementation actions for powerplants which depend upon inland waters for cooling. In addition, this policy should be particularly useful in guiding planning of new power generating facilities so as to protect beneficial uses of the State’s water resources and to keep the consumptive use of freshwater for powerplant cooling to that minimally essential for the welfare of the citizens of the State.
Policy with Respect to Water Reclamation in California
(Effective January 6, 1977) The purpose of this policy is to set forth principles that foster the coordination of the development of reclamation potential in California including data collection, research, planning, and implementation programs for water reclamation and reclaimed water uses.
Policy on the Disposal of Shredder Waste (PDF) (2 pp, 106K)
(Effective March 1987) This policy discusses that, in some cases, shredder waste can be considered hazardous waste and outlines these cases while also including proper ways of disposing this type of waste.
Adoption of the Policy Regarding the Underground Storage Tank Pilot Program (PDF) (9 pp, 420K)
(Effective February 18, 1988) This policy describes the pilot program for funding oversight of underground storage tank remediation work.
Adoption of Policy Entitled "Sources of Drinking Water" (PDF) (3 pp, 94K)
(Effective May 19, 1988) This policy gives exceptions to the statement that all surface and ground waters of the State are considered to be suitable, or potentially suitable, for municipal or domestic water supply and should be so designated by the Regional Boards.
Policies and Procedures for Investigation and Cleanup and Abatement of Discharges Under Water Code Section 13304
(Effective October 2, 1996) These policies and procedures apply to all investigations, and cleanup and abatement activities, for all types of discharges subject to Section 13304 of the WC

The following amendments are associated with this document:

Effective Date Description
10-2-1996 Amendment to the Policies and Procedures for Investigation and Cleanup and Abatement of Discharges Under Water Code Section 13304, Resolution 96-079 (PDF) (26 pp, 1.1MB)
Policy for Regulation of Discharges of Municipal Solid Waste (PDF) (5 pp, 288K)
(Effective June 17, 1993) This policy identifies policies, implementation, implementation schedule, and containment parameters and standards with regards to the regulation of discharges of municipal solid waste.
Water Quality Enforcement Policy
(Effective September 18, 1997) This policy outlines the enforcement policies of the state including how certain violation categories are handled.

The following amendments are associated with this document:

Effective Date Description
9-18-1997 Amendment to the Water Quality Enforcement Policy, State Water Resources Control Board, Resolution 97-085
Adoption of the Water Quality Control Policy for Guidance on Development of Regional Toxic Hot Spot Cleanup Plans
(Effective September 2, 1998) The Water Quality Control Policy for Guidance on Development of Regional Toxic Hot Spot Cleanup Plans is intended to provide guidance on the development of the Regional cleanup plans. The Policy contains a specific definition of a toxic hot spot, general ranking criteria, the mandatory contents of the cleanup plans, and issues to be considered by the SWRCB in the development of the consolidated toxic hot spot cleanup plan. The principles contained in this Policy apply to all enclosed bays, estuaries and coastal waters.

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Basin-Specific Water Quality Control Plans

Below are the Basin Plans with listed water quality standards amendments for the nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards. Please note that the following Basin Plans also include provisions outside the scope of water quality standards. The dates provided here generally reflect the most recent effective date for the water quality standards portions of the Plans.

Regional Water Quality Control Board 1 (North Coast)

Water Quality Control Plan for the North Coast Region (PDF) (120 pp, 749K)
(Effective August 18, 1994)
Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the North Coast Region
Effective Date Description
2-27-06 Compliance Schedules for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program, Resolution R1-2004-0011 (PDF) (4 pp, 25K)
12-21-10 Site-Specific Objectives (SSO) for Dissolved Oxygen for the Klamath River,
Resolution No. R1-2010-0025 (PDF)
(9 pp, 350K)
4-9-12 Low Threat Discharges Action Plan and Revision of Action Plan for Storm Water
Discharges (PDF)
(5 pp, 33K)

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Regional Water Quality Control Board 2 (San Francisco Bay Region)

Water Quality Control Plan - San Francisco Bay Basin (Region 2) (PDF) (150 pp, 9MB)
(Effective November 13, 1995)
Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay Region
Effective Date Description
1-21-03 Adoption of site-specific objectives for copper and nickel in the Lower South San Francisco Bay and an implementation plan, Resolution R2-2002-0061 (PDF) (4 pp, 19K)
2-12-08 Adoption of amended mercury water quality objectives and mercury TMDL for the San Francisco Bay (PDF) (27 pp, 235K)
9-29-08 Adoption of site-specific objective for copper under and north of the Dumbarton Bridge in the San Francisco Bay and an implementation plan, Resolution R2-2007-0042 (PDF) (10 pp, 96K)
1-06-09 Adoption of site-specific objective for copper under and north of the Dumbarton Bridge in the San Francisco Bay and an implementation plan, Resolution R2-2007-0042 (PDF) (18 pp, 388K)
6-01-10 Adoption of site-specific methylmercury fish tissue water quality objectives in replacement of a mercury water column water quality objective for certain waters within the Guadalupe River watershed (PDF) (4 pp, 142K)
8-16-11 Adoption of enterococcus objectives for marine and estuarine waters designated for the Contact Water Recreation beneficial use in the San Francisco Bay Region (PDF) (9 pp, 59K)
4-3-12 Hayward Marsh Resolution and Basin Plan Amendment (PDF) (8 pp, 152K)
4-3-12 Addition of Surface Water Bodies and Beneficial Uses for San Franciscos Bay
Basin (PDF)
(55 pp, 24MB)

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Regional Water Quality Control Board 3 (Central Coast)

Water Quality Control Plan (PDF) (462 pp, 10.9MB)
(Effective September 8, 1994)
Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Central Coast Region
Effective Date Description
8-22-03 Removal of the nitrate objective for the San Lorenzo River from Chapter 3 of the Basin Plan, Resolution 00-001 (PDF) (3 pp, 712K)
3-28-07 Amending the Water Quality Control Plan for the Central Coast Basin to include Watsonville Slough TMDL and implementation plan for pathogens, Watsonville Slough watershed livestock waste discharge prohibition, and removal of the shellfish harvesting beneficial use from Watsonville Slough and tributaries, Resolution R3-2006-0025 (PDF) (11 pp, 61K)

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Regional Water Quality Control Board 4 (Los Angeles)

Water Quality Control Plan, Los Angeles Region (PDF) (225 pp, 11.4MB)
(Effective February 25, 1995)
Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Los Angeles Region
Effective Date Description
1-27-97 Amendment to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Los Angeles Region (PDF) (44 pp, 2.3MB)
9-25-02 Update to bacteria objectives for waterbodies designated for Water Contact Recreation (PDF) (1 pg, 8K)
6-19-03 Update to ammonia water quality objectives and implementation procedures for inland surface waters, enclosed bays, and estuaries which are characteristic of freshwater and support aquatic life (PDF) (16 pp, 68K)
6-19-03 Incorporates (1) implementation provisions for the bacteria objectives; (2) the Santa Monica Bay Beaches wet-weather TMDL; and (3) the Santa Monica Bay Beaches dry-weather TMDL, Resolution 2002-022 (PDF) (24 pp, 99K)
2-10-04 Amendment for the coastal watersheds of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties that incorporates language authorizing the inclusion of compliance schedules in NPDES permits, Resolution 2003-001 (PDF) (4 pp, 19K)
2-17-06 Update to Beneficial Uses (PDF) (2 pp, 16K)

These amendments incorporate 1) the removal of the potential REC-1 beneficial use associated with the Swimmable Goal - as expressed in the federal Clean Water Act Section 101(a)(2) - for "Ballona Creek," replace the potential REC-1 beneficial use for "Ballon Creek to Estuary" with an Existing Limited REC-1 Use, and 2) add bacteria objectives to prtect the new limited REC-1 use.

Amended Beneficial Use Table 2.1 (PDF) (10 pp, 42K)
2-16-07 Amendment for revised early life stage implementation provision for inland surface water ammonia objectives for freshwaters, Resolution 2005-014 (PDF) (9 pp, 518K)
3-30-09 Amendment incorporating site-specific objectives for ammonia, Resolution 2007-005 (PDF) (3 pp, 177K)
5-18-09 Amendment subdividing Santa Clara River reach 4 into two Reaches, 4A and 4B, Resolution R4-2007-018 (PDF) (2 pp, 604K)

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Regional Water Quality Control Board 5 (Central Valley)

Water Quality Control Plan for the Tulare Lake Basin, Second Edition - 1995 (PDF) (65 pp, 4.8MB)
(Effective July 20, 1995)
Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Tulare Lake Basin
Effective Date Description
1-6-04 Modification of language addressing antidegradation policies, Resolution R5-2002-0177 (PDF) (7 pp, 28K)
Water Quality Control Plan, Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins (PDF) (80 pp, 402K)
(Effective September 15, 1998) This is the Fourth Edition, which includes an amendment from 1996.
Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins
Effective Date Description
9-26-03 Establish a program for the control of mercury in Clear Lake, Resolution R5-2002-0207 (PDF) (12 pp, 69K)
10-15-03 Establish site-specific objectives for pH and turbidity for Deer Creek in Sacramento and El Dorado counties, Resolution R5-2002-0127 (PDF) (4 pp, 17K)
1-6-04 Modifies language addressing antidegradation policies, Resolution R5-2002-0151 (PDF) (7 pp, 33K)
8-11-04 Diazinon objectives for Sacramento and Feather Rivers, Resolution R5-2003-0148 (PDF) (11 pp, 43K)
5-1-06 Deer Creek temperature site-specific objectives, Resolution R5-2003-0006 (PDF) (5 pp, 27K)
5-1-06 Correction to Deer Creek temperature site-specific objectives, Resolution R5-2005-0119 (PDF) (4 pp, 20K)
8-7-06 Redesignation of Old Alamo Creek, Resolution R5-2005-0053 (PDF) (4 pp, 34K)
12-20-06 Diazinon and chlorpyrifos objectives for Lower San Joaquin River, Resolution R5-2005-0138 (PDF) (34 pp, 145K)
2-6-07 Designate commercial and sport fishing (COMM) use and establishing site-specific methylmercury in fish tissue criteria, Resolution R5-2005-0146 (PDF) (19 pp, 311K)
10-10-07 Diazinon and chlorpyrifos objectives for the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, Resolution R5-2006-0061 (PDF) (15 pp, 299K)
3-12-08 Establish compliance schedules for salt and boron wasteload allocations for a TMDL in the Lower San Joaquin River, Resolution R5-2004-0108 (PDF) (31 pp, 400K)
8-11-08 Diazinon and chlopyrifos objectives for Sacramento and Feather Rivers, Resolution R5-2007-0034 (PDF) (15 pp, 66K)
7-7-09 Revise pH and Turbidity Water Quality Objectives for All Waters in the Basin Plan, Resolution R5-2007-0136 (PDF) (6 pp, 53K)
9-4-09 Remove Beneficial Uses and Establish Water Quality Objectives in Sulphur Creek, Colusa County, Resolution R5-2007-0021 (PDF) (7 pp, 40K)
10-20-11 Control of Methylmercury and Total Mercury in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary, Resolution R5-2010-0043 (PDF) (44 pp, 1.1MB)
4-9-13 Water Quality Objectives for Chloroform, Chlorodibromomethane, and Dichlorobromomethane for New Alamo and Ulatis Creeks, Solano County, and Permit Implementation Provisions, Resolution R5-2010-0047 (PDF) (10 pp, 78K)

Map - Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley, Region 5, Sacramento (PDF) (1 pg, 465K)

Map - Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley, Region 5, San Joaquin (PDF) (1 pg, 326K)

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Regional Water Quality Control Board 6 (Lahontan)

Water Quality Control Plan for the Lahontan Region, North and South Basins (PDF) (590 pp, 31MB)
(Effective October 1994)
Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Lahontan Region, North and South Basins
Effective Date Description
4-29-02 Table 2-1: Removes the potential Municipal and Domestic Supply (MUN) use designation (PDF) (1 pg, 15K)
1-12-04 Editorial revisions that pertain to restatements of existing water quality standards for the purpose of clarity and corrections of formatting or typographic errors in the Basin Plan (PDF) (8 pp, 34K)

Map - Regional Water Quality Control Board, Lahontan, Region 6 (PDF) (1 pg, 136K)

Map - Regional Water Quality Control Board, South Lahontan, Region 6 (PDF) (1 pg, 275K)

Regional Water Quality Control Board 7 (Colorado River Basin)

Water Quality Control Plan, Colorado River Basin (PDF) (72 pp, 3.5MB)
(Effective August 8, 1994)

Map - Regional Water Quality Control Board, Colorado River Basin, Region 7 (PDF) (1 pg, 189K)
Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Colorado River Basin
Effective Date Description
1-28-13 Basin Plan Amendment to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Colorado River Basin Region to Revise Indicator Bacteria for the Coachella Valley Storm Water Channel, Resolution R7-2010-0027 (PDF) (3 pp, 40K)

Regional Water Quality Control Board 8 (Santa Ana)

Water Quality Control Plan, Santa Ana River Basin (PDF) (203 pp, 9.1MB)
(Effective July 17, 1997)
Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Santa Ana River Basin
Effective Date Description
7-15-02 Incorporates language to authorize the inclusion of compliance schedules in NPDES permits under specified circumstances (PDF) (2 pp, 12K)

Map - Regional Water Quality Control Board, Santa Ana, Region 8 (PDF) (1 pg, 90K)

Regional Water Quality Control Board 9 (San Diego)

Water Quality Control Plan for the San Diego Basin (PDF) (344 pp, 18.3MB)
(Effective March 12, 1997) This is the 1994 Edition, which includes water quality standards amendments from 1996 and 1997. Basin Plan on the State of California website Exit EPA Disclaimer .

Effective Date Description
9-16-09 Incorporate Implementation Provisions for Indicator Bacteria Water Quality Objectives, Resolution R9-2008-0028 (PDF)  (13 pp, 2.5MB)
Map - Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Diego, Region 9 (PDF) (1 pg, 862K)

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