Water Quality Standards Handbook
NEW IN 2014: UPDATED CHAPTERS
The Water Quality Standards Handbook is a compilation of the EPA's water quality standards (WQS) program guidance including recommendations for states, authorized tribes, and territories in reviewing, revising, and implementing WQS. The guidance in this handbook supports the EPA’s WQS regulations at 40 CFR Part 131.
The Water Quality Standards Handbook was first issued in 1983 and provided a compilation of the EPA's WQS guidance to-date.
In 1994, The Water Quality Standards Handbook: Second Edition was issued and retained all of the guidance in the 1983 handbook unless such guidance was specifically revised in subsequent years. The 1994 handbook also contained new EPA guidance that was developed between 1983 and 1994.
In 2007 and 2012, the EPA updated the online version of the handbook to incorporate minor enhancements including links to additional information and resources that the EPA developed subsequent to 1994. However, the text of the chapters did not change from the 1994 handbook.
In 2014, the EPA updated the online version of the handbook to reflect current EPA guidance and streamlined the text to make the document more user friendly.
The 2014 update also reflects current technology that allows the handbook to serve as an online "living document." As such, the EPA will update the online handbook as new guidance becomes available and will not publish a new printed edition.
For any questions related to the guidance in this Handbook, please contact us. Copies of any referenced document can be obtained by clicking on the hyperlink or visiting the Reference Library of Water Quality Standards Policy and Guidance Documents page.
Browse the Water Quality Standards Handbook
- Chapter 1: General Provisions (updated 9/2014)
- Chapter 2: Designation of Uses (updated 8/1994)
- Chapter 3: Water Quality Criteria (updated 8/1994)
- Chapter 4: Antidegradation (updated 8/1994)
- Chapter 5: General Policies (updated 9/2014)
- Chapter 6: Procedures for Review and Revision of Water Quality Standards (updated 8/2014)
- Chapter 7: Water Quality Standards and the Water Quality-based Approach to Pollution Control (updated 1/2015)
- Chapter 8: Requirements for Indian Tribes
- Cover Page, Table of Contents, and Glossary
- Appendix A: Water Quality Standards Regulation
- Appendix B: Chronological Summary of Federal Water Quality Standards Promulgation Acts
- Appendix C: Biological Criteria: National Program Guidance for Surface Waters
- Appendix D: National Guidance: Water Quality Standards for Wetlands
- Appendix E: An Approach for Evaluating Numeric Water Quality Criteria for Wetlands Protection
- Appendix F: Coordination between the EPA, Fish & Wildlife Services and National Marine Fisheries Service
- Appendix G: Questions and Answers on Antidegradation
- Appendix H: Derivation of the 1985 Aquatic Life Criteria
- Appendix I: List of EPA Water Quality Criteria Documents
- Appendix J: Attachments of Office to Water Policy and Technical Guidance on Interpretation and Implementation of Aquatic Life Metals Criteria
- Appendix K: Procedures for the Initiation of Narrative Biological Criteria
- Appendix L: Interim Guidance on Determination and use of Water-Effect Ratios for Metals
- Appendix M: Economic Guidance for Water Quality Standards
- Appendix N: Integrated Risk Information System Background Paper
- Appendix O: Reserved
- Appendix P: List of 126 CWA Section 307(a) Priority Toxic Pollutants
- Appendix Q: Wetlands and 401 Certification
- Appendix R: Policy on the use of Biological Assessments and Criteria in the Water Quality Program
- Appendix S: Reserved
- Appendix T: Use Attainability Analysis
- Appendix U: List of EPA Regional Water Quality Standards Coordinators
- Appendix V: Water Quality Standards Program Document Request Forms
- Appendix W: Update Request Form for WQS Handbook: 2nd Edition
- Appendix X: Summary of Updates to 1994 Handbook Changes referred to in Appendix X have already been incorporated into the web version of the Handbook.