Tribes and Water Quality Standards
Water quality standards (WQS) provide the regulatory and scientific foundation for protecting water quality under the Clean Water Act (CWA). WQS not only set water quality goals for a tribe’s water bodies, but also serve as the regulatory basis for establishing water quality-based treatment controls and strategies. To administer a WQS program under the CWA, a tribe must apply to EPA for authorization to be treated in a similar manner as a state (TAS) (refer to the second tab above). To learn more about WQS and coverage in Indian country, please refer to the resources below.
- Code of Federal Regulations Part 131 – Water Quality Standards
- Water Quality Standards Handbook
- Water Quality Standards Tools for Tribes
- EPA Actions on Tribal Water Quality Standards and Contacts
- Case Studies, Video, and Publications on Tribal Water Quality Standards
Treatment in a Similar Manner as States (TAS)
Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 518(e) expressly provides for Indian tribes to play essentially the same role in Indian country that states do within state lands, authorizing EPA to treat eligible federally recognized Indian tribes in a similar manner as a state (TAS) for implementing and managing certain environmental programs.
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act) (pdf) - Refer to page 226 for Section 518 Indian Tribes
- Water Quality Standards (CWA Section 303(c))
- Water Quality Certifications (CWA Section 401)
- National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting (CWA Section 402)
- Dredge and Fill Permitting (CWA Section 404)
- Impaired Waters Listing (CWA Section 303(d))
- it is federally recognized;
- it has a governing body carrying out substantial governmental duties and powers;
- it has appropriate authority; and
- it is (or will be) capable of carrying out the functions of the particular program.
In May 2016, EPA published a final rule revising the interpretation of the Congressional delegation of authority under CWA Section 518, streamlining the process for applying for TAS for CWA regulatory programs, including the water quality standards program.To assist in the TAS application process to administer the 303(c) and 401 programs, EPA has provided the following streamlined TAS Application Template and other documents:
- TAS Application Template for Water Quality Standards and Water Quality Certifications
- Overview of TAS for the Water Quality Standards program (pdf)
- Frequently Asked Questions about TAS for the Water Quality Standards program (pdf)
- Procedural steps for Water Quality Standards TAS applications (pdf)
- Tribal-State WQS Dispute Resolution Mechanism (pdf)
- Environmental Protection in Indian Country - EPA’s programs and policies in Indian country.
- EPA Policy for the Administration of Environmental Programs on Indian Reservations (1984 Indian Policy) - EPA’s formal policy specifying how the Agency interacts with tribal governments and considers tribal interests in carrying out its programs to protect human health and the environment.
- Federal Water Quality Standards Requirements - Rules and regulations pertaining to Water Quality Standards.
- Water Enforcement Policy, Guidance and Publications - Policy and guidance related to enforcement of clean waters and drinking water.
- Final Rule - Treatment of Indian Tribes in a Similar Manner as States for Purposes of Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act - Rule enabling eligible tribes to obtain authority to identify impaired waters on their reservations and to establish Total Maximum Daily Loads.
- Guidance for Conducting Fish Consumption Surveys (pdf) - Instructions for selecting a survey approach and designing a survey to obtain consumption rate information.