Water Quality Standards

Current Rule

What Are Water Quality Standards?

Water Quality Standards (Standards) are the foundation of the water quality based control program mandated by the Clean Water Act. The Standards form the legal basis for controls on the amount of pollution entering West Virginia waters from sources such as industrial facilities, wastewater treatment plants and storm sewers. Standards are also the technical basis for reducing runoff from rural and urban areas. A standard can consist of either numeric or narrative limits for a specific physical or chemical parameter. Ultimately, a water quality standard is developed to help protect and maintain water quality necessary to meet and maintain designated or assigned uses, such as swimming, recreation, public water supply, and/or aquatic life.

What Makes Up a Water Quality Standard?

Water quality standards consist of four basic elements:

  • Designated uses of the water body (e.g., public water supply, aquatic life, recreation).
  • Water quality criteria to protect designated uses by limiting chemical constituents that may be present in the water body. The criteria consist of numeric concentrations and/or narrative requirements.
  • An antidegradation policy to maintain and protect existing uses and high quality waters.
  • General policies addressing implementation issues (e.g., low flows, variances, mixing zones).

How Does the DEP Use Water Quality Standards?

Standards are used by DEP regulators in various types of permits (e.g. industrial and municipal discharge permits) and set permit limits based on applicable water quality standards. Regulators also utilize standards when assessing conditions of a waterbody. When assessments identify a waterbody, say a stream or lake, that are not meeting adopted water quality standards, the assessment may lead to a determination of impairment, initiating further action such as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) or other regulatory procedure aimed at addressing the impairment.

Where Can I Find Current West Virginia Quality Standards?

The water quality standards for West Virginia are found in the Requirements Governing Water Quality Standards Rule - Title 47CRS2. DEP typically reviews the water quality standards rule during the triennial review cycle. Any rule revision must first go through the legislative review and adoption process. Final approval must be obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before being finalized as "Effective" and implemented by regulators. The current rule can be found in the Current Rule section above.

Contact Information

Dawn Newell, Environmental Resources Program Manager
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
Division of Water and Waste Management
601 57th Street, SE
Charleston, WV 25304
Phone: (304) 414-1114
Email: Dawn.A.Newell@wv.gov

Chris Smith, Environmental Resources Analyst
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
Division of Water and Waste Management
601 57th Street, SE
Charleston, WV 25304
Phone: (304) 926-0499 x43832
Email: Chris.B.Smith@wv.gov

Antidegradation Rules

Antidegradation refers to federal regulations designed to maintain and protect high quality waters and existing water quality in other waters from unnecessary pollution. This policy will ensure that West Virginia's waters are protected from activities which have the potential to lower water quality. West Virginia is required to establish a tiered antidegradation policy and implementation procedure.

Specific steps to be followed depend upon which tier of antidegradation applies. Procedures are outlined in the legislative rule Series 5 Antidegradation Implementation Procedures - Title 60CSR5 (effective July 1, 2008), and found by clicking on the link below:

Effective July 1, 2008

Why Do We Have Different "Tier" Types of Waters? What is the Difference Between the Types?

All waters are assigned to specific tiers depending upon the level of protection necessary to maintain high quality and/or existing uses. The higher the tier, the more stringent the requirements are for protection. West Virginia categorizes waters into the following tiers:

  • Tier 1 - Maintains and protects existing uses of a water body and the water quality conditions necessary to support such uses. A waterbody that is listed as impaired on the states 303(d) list is considered a Tier 1 water as it pertains to the specific pollutant listed.
  • Tier 2 - Maintains and protects "high quality" waters - water bodies where the level of water quality exceeds levels necessary to support recreation and wildlife and the propagation and maintenance of fish and other aquatic life. Tier 2 is the default assignment for a waterbody not listed as imparied on the states 303(d) list.
  • Tier 3 - Maintains and protects water quality in outstanding national resource waters.

Tier 3 Waters

Waters placed in the Tier 3 category are known as "outstanding national resource waters. These include waters in Federal Wilderness Areas, specifically designated federal waters, and high quality waters or naturally reproducing trout streams in state parks, national parks, and national forests. Guidance pertaining to Tier 3 waters can be found in Series 2A Designation of Tier 3 Waters - Title 47CSR2A (effective December 1, 2008) and found by clicking on the link below:

Effective December 1, 2008

Nominating Tier 3 Waters

In addition to DEP efforts to identify and list Tier 3 waters, candidate waters may be nominated for inclusion in the Tier 3 category by an interested party. Nomination procedures are outlined in Series 5 Antidegradation Implementation Procedures - Title 60CRS5, Section 7.1. (effective July 1, 2008). Section 7.1 outlines all necessary information and documentation that must be included in the nomination packet, and general procedures DEP staff utilizes during the nomination review.

Fill Hollow and Watkins Run Tier 3 Nomination

DEP staff received a Tier 3 nomination for Fill Hollow and Watkins Runs, and information pertaining to this nomination can be found by clicking on the following links:

Based on DEP's review of the submitted nomination application, per procedures in 60CSR 5 and 47CSR 2A, and a review of the comments received, DEP determined that Watkins Run will be designated a Tier 3 stream.

Designated Use

What is Designated Use?

A designated use, or sometimes referred to as "beneficial use" can refer to many things, such as public water supply use, water contact recreation use, or power generation use. DEP takes into consideration the use and the value of the water body when making a determination. Uses can vary, from public water supply, aquatic life, recreational, agricultural, industrial, and navigational purposes. Water quality standards and criteria are set to ensure uses are maintained and protected. The following table outlines the various use designations found in West Virginia waters.

Designated Use Table

Category Use Subcategory Use Category Description
A Public Water Human Health Waters, which, after conventional treatment, are used for human consumption.
B1 Warm Water Fishery Aquatic Life Propagation and maintenance of fish and other aquatic life in streams or stream segments that contain populations composed of all warm water aquatic life.
B2 Trout Waters Propagation and maintenance of fish and other aquatic life in streams or stream segments that sustain year-round trout populations. Excluded are those streams or stream segments which receive annual stockings of trout but which do not support year-round trout populations.
B4 Wetlands Propagation and maintenance of fish and other aquatic life in wetlands. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.
C Water Contact Recreation Human Health Swimming, fishing, water skiing and certain types of pleasure boating such as sailing in very small craft and outboard motor boats.
D1 Irrigation All Other All stream segments used for irrigation.
D2 Livestock Watering All stream segments used for livestock.
D3 Wildlife All stream segments and wetlands used for wildlife.
E1 Water Transport All stream segments modified for water transport and having permanently maintained navigation aides.
E2 Cooling Water All stream segments having one or more users for industrial cooling.
E3 Power Production All stream segments extending from a point 500 feet upstream from the intake to a point one-half mile below the wastewater discharge point.
E4 Industrial All stream segments with one or more industrial users. It does not include water for cooling.

Streams Designated As B2 - Trout Waters

Appendix A of the Requirements Governing Water Quality Standards Rule - Title 47CRS2 contains a partial list of streams designated as B2 Trout Waters. The Trout Water designation process is a cooperative effort by both the DEP and the Division of Natural Resources staff and is routinely reviewed, hence this list is not comprehensive. If there are questions about the status of a stream's current designation, please consult the Watershed Assessment map layer and select the stream of interest on the map.

Modifications to Water Quality Standards

Both State and Federal water quality standards include mechanisms that allow flexibility in addressing water quality protection by accommodating specific water quality-related circumstances, while meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act. This flexibility can be either temporary or permanent and can be obtained via numerous actions, such as a water quality variance, site-specific criterion, or use reclassification.