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EPA Releases Guidelines for New Water Quality Standards

[EPA press release - February 13, 1973]

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued guidelines to assist EPA Regional Offices and States in developing or revising State water quality standards as required by the new water law.

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, enacted last October 18, called for the establishment of intra-state water quality standards as well as review and revision of existing interstate standards.

The guidelines say that water quality standards should be designed to enhance the quality of water. If it is not possible to provide for prompt improvement in water quality at the time initial standards are set, the standards should be designed to prevent any increase in pollution.

The guidelines note that water quality uses and criteria may be revised from time to time in accordance with various provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972.

The guidelines assert that water quality criteria establish national water quality goals. "They must reflect levels of water quality which will protect and enhance the quality of the waters to which they apply for all designated uses of such water," the guidelines state.

All waters should be protected for recreational uses in or on the water and for the preservation and propagation of desirable species of aquatic life. Use and value of water for public water supplies, agricultural, industrial, and other purposes, as well as navigation will also be considered in setting standards. However, only in special circumstances will the criteria supporting these uses be permitted to interfere with recreational uses and the preservation of desirable species of aquatic life.

Minimum criteria for specified water use classifications are the minimum recommended levels set by the National Technical Advisory Committee in its report to the Secretary of the Interior on Water Quality Criteria, April 1, 1968, and other information provided from time to time by EPA. No criteria less restrictive than these minimum criteria will be approved unless it is demonstrated to the EPA Regional Administrator's satisfaction that the natural condition of the water does not exceed such lower quality or that other conditions exist that cannot be realistically controlled, thus precluding reaching the desired level of water quality.

The guidelines stress that numerical values must be stated wherever possible in water quality standards. Narrative descriptions may be employed where other values cannot be established.

The antidegradation statement previously adopted by the States and approved by the Federal Government will remain in effect as part of the water quality standards for all navigable waters. Their application will be consistent with the goals, objectives and requirements of the various provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972.

Copies of the guidelines have been sent to the ten EPA Regional Offices for distribution to appropriate State Authorities. Copies are available at EPA Regional Offices or from the Planning and Standards Branch, Water Planning Division, Office of Air and Water Programs, EPA, Washington, D.C. 20460. Limited copies of the guidelines are available to the press from the EPA Press Office.