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Triennial Standards Review Photos

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For more information, contact:
Marcia Willhite

Triennial standards reviewHelping improve Wisconsin's surface water quality

Wisconsin has abundant water resources

What is the triennial standards review?

Every three years, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reviews Wisconsin's water quality standards or related guidance for development and revision as required by the federal Clean Water Act. This comprehensive evaluation, called the Triennial Standards Review (TSR) Factsheet [PDF] is an essential process to keep Wisconsin's waters swimmable, fishable and drinkable.

This review helps DNR staff focus efforts to integrate the latest science, technology and federal requirements into how the State regulates water quality. In addition, the review assists the staff with work-planning and identifying needed actions for moving projects forward. Water quality standards act as guidelines for setting an appropriate level of protection for Wisconsin’s lakes, rivers and streams consist of the following:

  • Designated uses – goals and expectations established for each waterbody;
  • Water quality criteria – narrative and numeric benchmarks established to protect the designated uses;
  • Antidegradation - policy or procedure established to protect high quality water;
  • Water quality variances – short-term changes to water quality standards when criteria are unattainable. Water quality variances are also reviewed as part of the Triennial Standards Review.

Triennial review 2018-20

Step 1 of the 2018-2020 cycle is underway. The department is now accepting topics for consideration from the public, external partners and DNR staff. The public is highly encouraged to participate in this process. This is a great opportunity for you to have an impact on how the DNR protects Wisconsin's lakes, rivers and streams.

Suggestions for revisions or improvements to DNR's policies, rules and guidance related to designated uses, water quality criteria, antidegradation and variances were sent to DNR using a topic suggestion document by January 25, 2018. The topic suggestion period is now closed.

Additional information regarding the topic prioritization survey (step 2) will be made available in the near future. Further information about the 2015-2017 Triennial Standards Review or other previous Review cycles can be found in the "previous cycles" tab.

Last revised: Thursday February 08 2018