Water Quality Standards for Wetlands - National Guidance



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United States Environmental Protection Agency


This document provides program guidance to States on how to ensure effective application of water quality standards (WQS) to wetlands. This guidance reflects the level of achievement EPA expects the States to accomplish by the end of FY 1993, as defined in the Agency Operating Guidance, FY 1991, Office of Water. The basic requirements for applying State water quality standards to wetlands include the following: - Include wetlands in the defintion of "State waters".; - Designate uses for all wetlands; - Adopt aesthetic narrative criteria (the "free forms") and appropriate numeric criteria for wetlands; - Adopt narrative biological criteria for wetlands; - Apply the State's antidegradation policy and implementation methods to wetlands. Water quality standards for wetlands are necessary to ensure that the provisions of the Clean Water Act (CWA) applied to other surface waters are also applied to wetlands. Although Federal regulations implementing the CWA include wetlands in the definition of "waters of U.S." and therefore require water quality standards, a number of States have not developed WQS for wetlands and have not included wetlands in their definitions of "State waters". Applying water quality standards to wetlands is part of an overall effort to protect and enhance the Nation's wetland resources and provides a regulatory basis for a variety of programs to meet this goal. Standards provide the foundation for a broad range of water quality management activities including, but not limited to, monitoring under Section 305(b), permitting under Sections 402 and 404, water quality certification under Section 401, and the control of NPS pollution under Section 319. With the issuance of this guidance, EPA proposes a two-phased approach for the development of WQS for wetlands. Phase 1 activities presented in this guidance include the development of WQS elements for wetlands based upon existing information and science to be implemented within the next triennium. Phase 2 involves the further refinement of these basic elements using new science and program developments. The development of WQS for all surface waters is an iterative process.


66 pages; available for download at the link below.


wetlands -- water quality, wetlands management, environmental protection