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e-CFR data is current as of April 2, 2020

Title 40Chapter ISubchapter DPart 131 → Subpart B


Title 40: Protection of Environment
PART 131—WATER QUALITY STANDARDS


Subpart B—Establishment of Water Quality Standards


Contents
§131.10   Designation of uses.
§131.11   Criteria.
§131.12   Antidegradation policy and implementation methods.
§131.13   General policies.
§131.14   Water quality standards variances.
§131.15   Authorizing the use of schedules of compliance for water quality-based effluent limits in NPDES permits.

§131.10   Designation of uses.

(a) Each State must specify appropriate water uses to be achieved and protected. The classification of the waters of the State must take into consideration the use and value of water for public water supplies, protection and propagation of fish, shellfish and wildlife, recreation in and on the water, agricultural, industrial, and other purposes including navigation. If adopting new or revised designated uses other than the uses specified in section 101(a)(2) of the Act, or removing designated uses, States must submit documentation justifying how their consideration of the use and value of water for those uses listed in this paragraph appropriately supports the State's action. A use attainability analysis may be used to satisfy this requirement. In no case shall a State adopt waste transport or waste assimilation as a designated use for any waters of the United States.

(b) In designating uses of a water body and the appropriate criteria for those uses, the State shall take into consideration the water quality standards of downstream waters and shall ensure that its water quality standards provide for the attainment and maintenance of the water quality standards of downstream waters.

(c) States may adopt sub-categories of a use and set the appropriate criteria to reflect varying needs of such sub-categories of uses, for instance, to differentiate between cold water and warm water fisheries.

(d) At a minimum, uses are deemed attainable if they can be achieved by the imposition of effluent limits required under sections 301(b) and 306 of the Act and cost-effective and reasonable best management practices for nonpoint source control.

(e) [Reserved]

(f) States may adopt seasonal uses as an alternative to reclassifying a water body or segment thereof to uses requiring less stringent water quality criteria. If seasonal uses are adopted, water quality criteria should be adjusted to reflect the seasonal uses, however, such criteria shall not preclude the attainment and maintenance of a more protective use in another season.

(g) States may designate a use, or remove a use that is not an existing use, if the State conducts a use attainability analysis as specified in paragraph (j) of this section that demonstrates attaining the use is not feasible because of one of the six factors in this paragraph. If a State adopts a new or revised water quality standard based on a required use attainability analysis, the State shall also adopt the highest attainable use, as defined in §131.3(m).

(1) Naturally occurring pollutant concentrations prevent the attainment of the use; or

(2) Natural, ephemeral, intermittent or low flow conditions or water levels prevent the attainment of the use, unless these conditions may be compensated for by the discharge of sufficient volume of effluent discharges without violating State water conservation requirements to enable uses to be met; or

(3) Human caused conditions or sources of pollution prevent the attainment of the use and cannot be remedied or would cause more environmental damage to correct than to leave in place; or

(4) Dams, diversions or other types of hydrologic modifications preclude the attainment of the use, and it is not feasible to restore the water body to its original condition or to operate such modification in a way that would result in the attainment of the use; or

(5) Physical conditions related to the natural features of the water body, such as the lack of a proper substrate, cover, flow, depth, pools, riffles, and the like, unrelated to water quality, preclude attainment of aquatic life protection uses; or

(6) Controls more stringent than those required by sections 301(b) and 306 of the Act would result in substantial and widespread economic and social impact.

(h) States may not remove designated uses if:

(1) They are existing uses, as defined in §131.3, unless a use requiring more stringent criteria is added; or

(2) Such uses will be attained by implementing effluent limits required under sections 301(b) and 306 of the Act and by implementing cost-effective and reasonable best management practices for nonpoint source control.

(i) Where existing water quality standards specify designated uses less than those which are presently being attained, the State shall revise its standards to reflect the uses actually being attained.

(j) A State must conduct a use attainability analysis as described in §131.3(g), and paragraph (g) of this section, whenever:

(1) The State designates for the first time, or has previously designated for a water body, uses that do not include the uses specified in section 101(a)(2) of the Act; or

(2) The State wishes to remove a designated use that is specified in section 101(a)(2) of the Act, to remove a sub-category of such a use, or to designate a sub-category of such a use that requires criteria less stringent than previously applicable.

(k) A State is not required to conduct a use attainability analysis whenever:

(1) The State designates for the first time, or has previously designated for a water body, uses that include the uses specified in section 101(a)(2) of the Act; or

(2) The State designates a sub-category of a use specified in section 101(a)(2) of the Act that requires criteria at least as stringent as previously applicable; or

(3) The State wishes to remove or revise a designated use that is a non-101(a)(2) use. In this instance, as required by paragraph (a) of this section, the State must submit documentation justifying how its consideration of the use and value of water for those uses listed in paragraph (a) appropriately supports the State's action, which may be satisfied through a use attainability analysis.

[48 FR 51405, Nov. 8, 1983, as amended at 80 FR 51047, Aug. 21, 2015]

§131.11   Criteria.

(a) Inclusion of pollutants: (1) States must adopt those water quality criteria that protect the designated use. Such criteria must be based on sound scientific rationale and must contain sufficient parameters or constituents to protect the designated use. For waters with multiple use designations, the criteria shall support the most sensitive use.

(2) Toxic pollutants. States must review water quality data and information on discharges to identify specific water bodies where toxic pollutants may be adversely affecting water quality or the attainment of the designated water use or where the levels of toxic pollutants are at a level to warrant concern and must adopt criteria for such toxic pollutants applicable to the water body sufficient to protect the designated use. Where a State adopts narrative criteria for toxic pollutants to protect designated uses, the State must provide information identifying the method by which the State intends to regulate point source discharges of toxic pollutants on water quality limited segments based on such narrative criteria. Such information may be included as part of the standards or may be included in documents generated by the State in response to the Water Quality Planning and Management Regulations (40 CFR part 130).

(b) Form of criteria: In establishing criteria, States should:

(1) Establish numerical values based on:

(i) 304(a) Guidance; or

(ii) 304(a) Guidance modified to reflect site-specific conditions; or

(iii) Other scientifically defensible methods;

(2) Establish narrative criteria or criteria based upon biomonitoring methods where numerical criteria cannot be established or to supplement numerical criteria.

[48 FR 51405, Nov. 8, 1983, as amended at 51047, Aug. 21, 2015]

§131.12   Antidegradation policy and implementation methods.

(a) The State shall develop and adopt a statewide antidegradation policy. The antidegradation policy shall, at a minimum, be consistent with the following:

(1) Existing instream water uses and the level of water quality necessary to protect the existing uses shall be maintained and protected.

(2) Where the quality of the waters exceeds levels necessary to support the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and recreation in and on the water, that quality shall be maintained and protected unless the State finds, after full satisfaction of the intergovernmental coordination and public participation provisions of the State's continuing planning process, that allowing lower water quality is necessary to accommodate important economic or social development in the area in which the waters are located. In allowing such degradation or lower water quality, the State shall assure water quality adequate to protect existing uses fully. Further, the State shall assure that there shall be achieved the highest statutory and regulatory requirements for all new and existing point sources and all cost-effective and reasonable best management practices for nonpoint source control.

(i) The State may identify waters for the protections described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section on a parameter-by-parameter basis or on a water body-by-water body basis. Where the State identifies waters for antidegradation protection on a water body-by-water body basis, the State shall provide an opportunity for public involvement in any decisions about whether the protections described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section will be afforded to a water body, and the factors considered when making those decisions. Further, the State shall not exclude a water body from the protections described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section solely because water quality does not exceed levels necessary to support all of the uses specified in section 101(a)(2) of the Act.

(ii) Before allowing any lowering of high water quality, pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section, the State shall find, after an analysis of alternatives, that such a lowering is necessary to accommodate important economic or social development in the area in which the waters are located. The analysis of alternatives shall evaluate a range of practicable alternatives that would prevent or lessen the degradation associated with the proposed activity. When the analysis of alternatives identifies one or more practicable alternatives, the State shall only find that a lowering is necessary if one such alternative is selected for implementation.

(3) Where high quality waters constitute an outstanding National resource, such as waters of National and State parks and wildlife refuges and waters of exceptional recreational or ecological significance, that water quality shall be maintained and protected.

(4) In those cases where potential water quality impairment associated with a thermal discharge is involved, the antidegradation policy and implementing method shall be consistent with section 316 of the Act.

(b) The State shall develop methods for implementing the antidegradation policy that are, at a minimum, consistent with the State's policy and with paragraph (a) of this section. The State shall provide an opportunity for public involvement during the development and any subsequent revisions of the implementation methods, and shall make the methods available to the public.

[48 FR 51405, Nov. 8, 1983, as amended at 80 FR 51047, Aug. 21, 2015]

§131.13   General policies.

States may, at their discretion, include in their State standards, policies generally affecting their application and implementation, such as mixing zones, low flows and variances. Such policies are subject to EPA review and approval.

§131.14   Water quality standards variances.

States may adopt WQS variances, as defined in §131.3(o). Such a WQS variance is subject to the provisions of this section and public participation requirements at §131.20(b). A WQS variance is a water quality standard subject to EPA review and approval or disapproval.

(a) Applicability. (1) A WQS variance may be adopted for a permittee(s) or water body/waterbody segment(s), but only applies to the permittee(s) or water body/waterbody segment(s) specified in the WQS variance.

(2) Where a State adopts a WQS variance, the State must retain, in its standards, the underlying designated use and criterion addressed by the WQS variance, unless the State adopts and EPA approves a revision to the underlying designated use and criterion consistent with §§131.10 and 131.11. All other applicable standards not specifically addressed by the WQS variance remain applicable.

(3) A WQS variance, once adopted by the State and approved by EPA, shall be the applicable standard for purposes of the Act under §131.21(d) through (e), for the following limited purposes. An approved WQS variance applies for the purposes of developing NPDES permit limits and requirements under 301(b)(1)(C), where appropriate, consistent with paragraph (a)(1) of this section. States and other certifying entities may also use an approved WQS variance when issuing certifications under section 401 of the Act.

(4) A State may not adopt WQS variances if the designated use and criterion addressed by the WQS variance can be achieved by implementing technology-based effluent limits required under sections 301(b) and 306 of the Act.

(b) Requirements for Submission to EPA. (1) A WQS variance must include:

(i) Identification of the pollutant(s) or water quality parameter(s), and the water body/waterbody segment(s) to which the WQS variance applies. Discharger(s)-specific WQS variances must also identify the permittee(s) subject to the WQS variance.

(ii) The requirements that apply throughout the term of the WQS variance. The requirements shall represent the highest attainable condition of the water body or waterbody segment applicable throughout the term of the WQS variance based on the documentation required in (b)(2) of this section. The requirements shall not result in any lowering of the currently attained ambient water quality, unless a WQS variance is necessary for restoration activities, consistent with paragraph (b)(2)(i)(A)(2) of this section. The State must specify the highest attainable condition of the water body or waterbody segment as a quantifiable expression that is one of the following:

(A) For discharger(s)-specific WQS variances:

(1) The highest attainable interim criterion; or

(2) The interim effluent condition that reflects the greatest pollutant reduction achievable; or

(3) If no additional feasible pollutant control technology can be identified, the interim criterion or interim effluent condition that reflects the greatest pollutant reduction achievable with the pollutant control technologies installed at the time the State adopts the WQS variance, and the adoption and implementation of a Pollutant Minimization Program.

(B) For WQS variances applicable to a water body or waterbody segment:

(1) The highest attainable interim use and interim criterion; or

(2) If no additional feasible pollutant control technology can be identified, the interim use and interim criterion that reflect the greatest pollutant reduction achievable with the pollutant control technologies installed at the time the State adopts the WQS variance, and the adoption and implementation of a Pollutant Minimization Program.

(iii) A statement providing that the requirements of the WQS variance are either the highest attainable condition identified at the time of the adoption of the WQS variance, or the highest attainable condition later identified during any reevaluation consistent with paragraph (b)(1)(v) of this section, whichever is more stringent.

(iv) The term of the WQS variance, expressed as an interval of time from the date of EPA approval or a specific date. The term of the WQS variance must only be as long as necessary to achieve the highest attainable condition and consistent with the demonstration provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this section. The State may adopt a subsequent WQS variance consistent with this section.

(v) For a WQS variance with a term greater than five years, a specified frequency to reevaluate the highest attainable condition using all existing and readily available information and a provision specifying how the State intends to obtain public input on the reevaluation. Such reevaluations must occur no less frequently than every five years after EPA approval of the WQS variance and the results of such reevaluation must be submitted to EPA within 30 days of completion of the reevaluation.

(vi) A provision that the WQS variance will no longer be the applicable water quality standard for purposes of the Act if the State does not conduct a reevaluation consistent with the frequency specified in the WQS variance or the results are not submitted to EPA as required by (b)(1)(v) of this section.

(2) The supporting documentation must include:

(i) Documentation demonstrating the need for a WQS variance.

(A) For a WQS variance to a use specified in section 101(a)(2) of the Act or a sub-category of such a use, the State must demonstrate that attaining the designated use and criterion is not feasible throughout the term of the WQS variance because:

(1) One of the factors listed in §131.10(g) is met, or

(2) Actions necessary to facilitate lake, wetland, or stream restoration through dam removal or other significant reconfiguration activities preclude attainment of the designated use and criterion while the actions are being implemented.

(B) For a WQS variance to a non-101(a)(2) use, the State must submit documentation justifying how its consideration of the use and value of the water for those uses listed in §131.10(a) appropriately supports the WQS variance and term. A demonstration consistent with paragraph (b)(2)(i)(A) of this section may be used to satisfy this requirement.

(ii) Documentation demonstrating that the term of the WQS variance is only as long as necessary to achieve the highest attainable condition. Such documentation must justify the term of the WQS variance by describing the pollutant control activities to achieve the highest attainable condition, including those activities identified through a Pollutant Minimization Program, which serve as milestones for the WQS variance.

(iii) In addition to paragraphs (b)(2)(i) and (ii) of this section, for a WQS variance that applies to a water body or waterbody segment:

(A) Identification and documentation of any cost-effective and reasonable best management practices for nonpoint source controls related to the pollutant(s) or water quality parameter(s) and water body or waterbody segment(s) specified in the WQS variance that could be implemented to make progress towards attaining the underlying designated use and criterion. A State must provide public notice and comment for any such documentation.

(B) Any subsequent WQS variance for a water body or waterbody segment must include documentation of whether and to what extent best management practices for nonpoint source controls were implemented to address the pollutant(s) or water quality parameter(s) subject to the WQS variance and the water quality progress achieved.

(c) Implementing WQS variances in NPDES permits. A WQS variance serves as the applicable water quality standard for implementing NPDES permitting requirements pursuant to §122.44(d) of this chapter for the term of the WQS variance. Any limitations and requirements necessary to implement the WQS variance shall be included as enforceable conditions of the NPDES permit for the permittee(s) subject to the WQS variance.

[80 FR 51048, Aug. 21, 2015]

§131.15   Authorizing the use of schedules of compliance for water quality-based effluent limits in NPDES permits.

If a State intends to authorize the use of schedules of compliance for water quality-based effluent limits in NPDES permits, the State must adopt a permit compliance schedule authorizing provision. Such authorizing provision is a water quality standard subject to EPA review and approval under section 303 of the Act and must be consistent with sections 502(17) and 301(b)(1)(C) of the Act.

[80 FR 51049, Aug. 21, 2015]

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