United States
Environmental Protection
Office of Water
      July 2010
                   Fact Sheet
                   Water Quality Standards  Regulatory Changes
EPA is planning to propose a limited set of targeted changes to the water quality standards
regulation to improve its effectiveness in helping restore and maintain the chemical, physical,
and biological integrity of the nation's waters. EPA expects to publish a proposed rule in the
Federal Register in summer 2011. Prior to publishing a proposed rule, EPA will hold informal
"listening sessions" inviting members of the public to express their views on the possible
changes EPA is considering for the rulemaking as well as offer additional suggestions. EPA will
also hold separate, individual listening sessions for tribal, state, and local governments.

Water quality standards serve as the foundation for the water quality-based approach to pollution
control, including Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and National Pollutant Discharge
Elimination System (NPDES) permits, and are a fundamental component of watershed

EPA developed its federal regulations to implement the requirements of the CWA. The Federal
Water Quality Standards regulations are found at 40 CFR Part 131.  Fundamentally, the
regulation: 1) defines when and how designated uses may be revised; 2) requires criteria to
protect those uses and be based on sound science; 3) requires EPA and states to prevent the
degradation of water quality, except under certain circumstances; 4) requires states/tribes to
review their water quality standards at least every three years and engage the public in any
revisions to water quality standards; and 5) specifies roles of states, tribes, and EPA and provides
administrative procedures for EPA's review.

Potential Scope of the Changes

The core requirements of the current regulation have been in place since 1983. These
requirements have provided a solid foundation for water quality-based controls that have been
put in place since then. The intent of the changes EPA is considering is to improve the
regulation's effectiveness by strengthening protection for high quality waters, ensuring that
standards reflect a continued commitment to the goals of the Clean Water Act wherever
attainable, improving the transparency of standards actions to the general public, and
strengthening EPA oversight. Specifically, EPA is considering providing clarity in the following
key areas: 1) antidegradation implementation methods, 2) Administrator's determination, 3)
designated uses, 4) variances to water quality standards; 5) triennial review scope and
requirements, and 6) updating the regulation to reflect court decisions.

Listening Sessions for the Public

EPA will hold two informal public listening sessions via audio teleconference in August 2010 to
inform the public about the rulemaking, and to receive views on changes to the water quality
standards regulation that are under consideration. The sessions will provide a review of EPA's
current regulation and a summary of the clarifications that EPA is considering, and will allow
time for questions and comments. You can find additional information about outreach efforts on
EPA's Web site at www.epa.gov/waterscience/standards/rules/wqs.
How to Get Additional Information

As this rulemaking proceeds we will provide information updates on EPA's website
www.epa.gov/waterscience/standards/rules/wqs. You may also email Christina Christensen at
christensen.christinafSjepa.gov for further information.