INTEGRATED WATER QUALITY MONITORING
AND ASSESSMENT REPORTING
Rhode Island's Section 305(b) State of the State's Waters Report
and Section 303(d) List of Impaired Waters
RIDEM submitted the first Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report (Integrated Report) in 2008. The Report consists of water quality assessment documentation previously reported in the 305(b) State of the State's Waters Report and the Integrated Lists, including the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters.
The federal Clean Water Act under Section 305(b) requires states to assess and report on the overall quality of waters in their state. Historically, the Department has summarized the overall water quality of the state in a biennial (every even year) report "State of the State's Waters" (also known as the 305(b) Report). The attainment of the CWA goals is measured by determining how well waters support their designated uses. For the purposes of the 305(b) water quality assessments, seven designated uses are evaluated: fish and wildlife habitat (aquatic life use); drinking water supply; shellfish consumption; shellfish controlled relay and depuration; fish consumption; primary contact recreation; secondary contact recreation. In the assessments, use support status is determined by comparing available water quality information to the water quality standards established in the Rhode Island Water Quality Regulations. The methodology for this assessment process is outlined in Rhode Island's Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (CALM). The results of this comparison are then used to assess each waterbody's specific designated uses as "Fully Supporting" or "Not Supporting". If data is not available to evaluate a designated use, it is considered "Not Assessed". Waterbodies that are not meeting their criteria or designated uses as determined during the 305(b) assessment process, are placed on the state's List of Impaired Waters which is developed in accordance with Section 303(d) of the CWA. This List is prioritized and schedules are set for developing Water Quality Restoration Plans, also known as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).
Prior to 2008, DEM submitted the 305(b) Report and 303(d) List as separate documents. Recent USEPA guidance recommends that states develop and submit an Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report (Integrated Report). This guidance recommends that states integrate their Section 305(b) water quality assessment report and their Section 303(d) Impaired Waters List into a single document. The Integrated Report is intended to provide a streamlined approach to assessing and reporting on water quality.
The new federal guidance results in a fundamentally different scope, organization, and options for communicating about water quality than previous guidance for these individual reports. Five new categories of assessment determination replace the old 305(b) assessment terminology (fully supporting, threatened, partially supporting, not supporting) and the 303(d) List Group format previously utilized by DEM. The new format provides an Integrated List consisting of 5 categories of water quality assessment information, with the fifth category being the list of impaired waters needing a TMDL.
Assessments may result in different use support attainment status for the different designated uses for individual waterbodies. For example, a waterbody may be Fully Supporting swimming use, but there may be insufficient data to develop an aquatic life use support status. The Integrated Report Categories are presented below with a description of how the results of the individual assessments for each designated use on a waterbody are integrated to determine the final Integrated Report Category for each waterbody. In general, the integration of assessment determinations follows a hierarchical approach where a determination of impairment for any cause for any of the waterbody's designated uses will result in placement of the waterbody in Category 5. Similarly, there is a hierarchical approach to placement of a waterbody into Category 4A over 4B over 4C. While each waterbody is placed into only one of the 5 reporting categories, the attainment status of each designated use for each waterbody is documented on the Integrated Lists to facilitate tracking of information and to assist in addressing data gaps and directing water quality monitoring efforts.
Based on the state's CALM, the Integrated List is generated by placing each surface waterbody of the state into one of the following five assessment categories:
Category 1 - Attaining all designated uses. Waterbodies will be placed into this Category if, in accordance with the requirements of the CALM, the assessment results indicated that the waterbody is attaining all water quality standards for all designated uses.
Category 2 - Attaining some of the designated uses; and insufficient or no data and information is available to determine if the remaining uses are attained. Waterbodies will be placed in this Category if there are data and information which, in accordance with the CALM, support a determination that some, but not all, uses are attained and attainment status of the remaining uses is unknown because there is insufficient or no data or information.
Category 3 - Insufficient or no data and information are available to determine if any designated use is attained or impaired. Waterbodies will be placed in this Category where the data or information to support an attainment determination for any use are not sufficient, consistent with the requirements of the CALM. In general, these uses and waterbodies are considered Not Assessed.
Category 4 - Impaired or threatened for one or more designated uses but does not require development of a TMDL. (Three subcategories):
Category 5 - Impaired or threatened for one or more designated uses by a pollutant(s), and requires a TMDL. This Category constitutes the 303(d) List of waters impaired or threatened by a pollutant(s) for which one or more TMDL(s) are needed.
- TMDL has been completed. Waterbodies will be placed in this subcategory once all TMDLs for the waterbody have been developed and approved by EPA.
- Other pollution control requirements are reasonably expected to result in attainment of the water quality standard in the near future. Waterbodies will be placed in this subcategory where other pollution control requirements are stringent enough to implement any water quality standard applicable to the water.
- Impairment is not caused by a pollutant. Waterbodies will be placed in this subcategory if pollution (e.g., flow) rather than a pollutant causes the impairment.