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Innovative Strategies to Apply Water Quality Criteria for Bacteria: A 50-State Survey of EPA-Approved Approaches for Freshwaters

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Section 101 of the Clean Water Act requires recreational activities to be protected when and where they occur. States, which have adopted a wide variety of strategies to meet this obligation, have one or more formal use classifications to recognize different types of recreational activities. Most states have developed narrative or numeric water quality criteria to limit pathogen pollution in waterbodies where people recreate. However, no two states have implemented bacterial standards using the exact same approach.

The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) development process has created increased interest in reviewing the appropriateness of recreational use classifications. One recent survey of state regulators found that nearly half of all 303(d) listings may not have been necessary if there had been a quick and cost-effective way to revise water quality standards to more accurately reflect the true use potential of waterbodies.

The authors of this paper reviewed the recreational use classifications (including all relevant subcategories) and bacterial water quality standards for all fifty states. The purpose of the survey was to identify regulatory precedents where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had approved state water quality standards that were materially different than the default recommendations in federal guidance. Survey results showed that that the EPA can and has approved numerous innovative approaches for regulating pathogens other than the traditional criteria recommended by federal guidance and often routinely applied by default.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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