Wetland Water Quality Standards

Water quality is an important factor in managing wetlands. Water quality in wetlands is affected by the type of soil, vegetation, position on the landscape, topography, water quantity (amount of flow), climate, groundwater and surface water chemistry, and hydrology. States are increasingly interested in developing water quality standards for wetlands which may differ in criteria from water quality standards for streams or lakes. Water quality standards are a legally established state regulation consisting of three main parts: (1) designated uses, (2) criteria and (3) anti-degradation policy, and often a fourth part, general policies addressing implementation.

Water Quality Standards for Wetlands are one component of the U.S. EPA’s Core Elements Framework. To view the EPA’s webpage on water quality standards for wetlands, click here.

NAWM Status and Trends Report – Wetland Water Quality Standards

In 2015, NAWM published a status and trends report on state wetland programs which includes an assessment of state wetland water quality standards. The study provides a snapshot of wetland programs from 46 states.  The way this report looks at wetland water quality standards differs slightly from other studies in the past. The study’s comparative analysis indicates that five states have wetland-specific water quality standards, while 10 states are in the process of developing these standards, for a total of 15 states in some stage of having water quality standards for their states’ wetlands.  Of the remaining states, only 2 do not apply any water quality standards.  The final 28 states report applying existing (not wetland-specific) water quality standards to wetlands.  Those that apply other standards to wetlands were found to belong to three different categories: 1) states that feel their standards are not adequate and want to develop new wetland-specific water quality standards, 2) states that are not planning to develop wetland-specific standards because they believe their current water quality standards adequately protect wetlands, and 3) states that do not feel that their wetlands are currently adequately protected but are not planning to develop wetland-specific standards. State-specific information about wetland water quality standards is available in each NAWM State Wetland Program Summary. To view the entire status and trends report, click here.

NAWM has provided resources for states and tribes that are developing water quality standards for wetlands, as well as other information related to wetlands and water quality below.