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About Wisconsin's waters.
Goals for water resources.
Monitoring water quality.
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Evaluating condition.
Planning for water quality.
Managing water resources.
Triennial Standards Review photos
Contact information
For information, contact:
Marcia Willhite
Water Quality Program

Triennial standards review Helping improve Wisconsin's surface water quality

Every three years, the 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) [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; and
  • 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 process

Diagram of the triennial review process

Step 1: Gather water quality standard related topic suggestions from internal staff, external partners and the general public.

Step 2: Compile a list of relevant topics and distribute survey to rank topics by priority.

Step 3: Prioritize topics based on survey responses and draft final report.

Step 4: Hold a public hearing on the draft final report.

Step 5: Work begins on the prioritized topics.

Current review cycle: 2018-2020

Step 5 of the 2018-2020 cycle is underway. The 2018-2020 priorities have been finalized and work has begun on the selected topics.

Steps 1-4 of the cycle are complete. Topic suggestions were submitted to DNR from Jan. 2-15, 2018. There were 18 entities that submitted a total of 68 topics. Similar topics were combined and topics not suited for a TSR were removed. The end result was 8 topics for review and these were given to DNR staff and external partners for ranking. The rankings were utilized in drafting the final report and list of topic priorities. Public comments on the draft report and list of topic priorities were accepted from Aug. 28 - Oct. 5, 2018. A public hearing for comments or questions on the draft final report was held on Sept. 21, 2018. There were 28 comments received during this time and comments were considered in the finalization of the 2018-2020 TSR report.

Previous cycles

Information about previous cycles is available below.




Last revised: Friday December 20 2019