Final Rulemaking to Update the National Water Quality Standards Regulation

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Summary

On August 5, 2015, the EPA Administrator signed a final rule updating six key areas of the federal water quality standards regulation which helps implement the Clean Water Act. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on August 21, 2015 (80 FR 51019).  The results are included in 40 CFR 131.  The final revisions provide a better-defined pathway for states and authorized tribes to improve water quality, protect high quality waters, increase transparency and enhance opportunities for meaningful public engagement at the state, tribal and local levels. The previous regulation had been in place since 1983. 

Final Revisions

The following key program areas are addressed in the final rule: (1) the EPA Administrator's determinations that new or revised water quality standards are necessary, (2) designated uses for water bodies, (3) triennial reviews of state and tribal WQS, (4) antidegradation requirements, (5) WQS variances, and (6) provisions authorizing the use of schedules of compliance for water quality-based effluent limits (WQBELs) in NPDES permits.  The docket for this rulemaking is available at Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0606

Webinar Series

In September and October 2015, EPA held a series of webinars on the Water Quality Standards Regulatory Revisions Final Rule. Four topics were discussed: (1) WQS Final Rule Overview; (2) WQS Variances In-Depth; (3) Antidegradation In-Depth; and (4) Designated Uses In-Depth. Webinars for each topic included a presentation, followed two days later by a one hour question and answer session.

EPA recorded each of the four presentation webinars and intends to post the recordings for future viewing. The recordings are being prepared and will be posted as soon as possible.

WQS Final Rule Overview Presentation—Monday, September 28, 2015 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eastern
WQS Variances In-Depth Presentation—Monday, October 5, 2015 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern
Antidegradation In-Depth Presentation—Tuesday, October 13, 2015 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eastern
Designated Uses In-Depth Presentation—Tuesday, October 20, 2015 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eastern

Proposed Revisions

The following key program areas were addressed in the proposed rule: (1) the EPA Administrator's determinations that new or revised water quality standards are necessary, (2) designated uses for water bodies, (3) triennial reviews of state and tribal WQS, (4) antidegradation provisions to protect water quality, (5) variances to WQS, and (6) compliance schedule authorizing provisions.  

The EPA provided a 120-day public comment period after the proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on September 4, 2013. The docket for this available rulemaking is available at Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0606. The public comment period for this proposed rule ended on January 2, 2014

Completed Outreach

  • Proposed Rule Outreach

    • Proposed Rule Webinar 1 - September 24, 2013 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm
      On September 24, 2013, the EPA held the first public webinar for the proposed rule. The webinar allowed the EPA to discuss the contents of the proposed rule and allowed interested parties the opportunity to ask clarifying questions prior to the close of the public comment period. 
    • Proposed Rule Public Meeting - October 29, 2013 in Washington, DC from 10:00am to 3:00pm
      On October 29, the EPA held a public meeting with interested parties face-to-face to discuss the contents of the "Water Quality Standards Regulatory Clarifications" Proposed Rule. After the EPA's presentation on the contents of the proposed rule, interested parties had the opportunity to ask clarifying questions.
    • Proposed Rule Webinar 2 - November 14, 2013 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm
      On November 14, 2013, the EPA held the second public webinar for the proposed rule. The webinar allowed the EPA to discuss the contents of the proposed rule and allowed interested parties the opportunity to ask clarifying questions prior to the close of the public comment period.
       
  • 2010 Listening Sessions

    In August 2010, as the Agency began work on the proposal, the EPA held two informal public listening sessions via audio teleconference to inform the public about the rulemaking, and to receive views on clarifications to the water quality standards regulation that were under consideration. The sessions provided a review of the EPA’s current regulation and a summary of the clarifications that the EPA is considering with time allotted for questions and comments. The agenda and resource materials were identical for both sessions.

  • EPA Listening Session Records

How to Get Additional Information

If you have questions or comments, you may email WQSRegulatoryClarifications@epa.gov or call 202-566-1860.

To receive information updates by email, you may subscribe to EPA’s list server forum, “WQS-News.” To subscribe or unsubscribe, follow the instructions at https://lists.epa.gov/read/all_forums/ and specify wqs-news as the name of the forum.

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