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Water quality standards external advisory committee

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is conducting rulemaking on several topics related to surface water quality standards. The rules focus on processes used by DNR to classify and assess the state’s waters.

An External Advisory Committee will be meeting from June 2016 through January 2017. Though these committee meetings will be focused on gathering input from the invited representatives, they are open meetings and will be posted on DNR’s public meetings calendar a month in advance of the scheduled meeting. DNR expects to hold a public comment period and public hearings on the rule packages in mid-2017. Following the public comment period, the rules will go to the Wisconsin State Legislature for review. DNR expects final promulgation of the rules will occur in early 2019. Specifically, the rule packages include the following topics:

Designated uses for classifying surface waters

  • Restructuring existing designated use categories to more appropriately represent the variety of Wisconsin’s surface waters. Wisconsin’s current designated use categories were established in the 1970s. The updated use categories will reflect advances in knowledge about aquatic systems. This rule package does not include updates to waters receiving discharge that are currently classified as Limited Aquatic Life or Limited Forage Fish.
  • Clarifying the process used for assigning designated uses, and providing an efficient way to update or modify designated uses.

Biocriteria and bioconfirmation of phosphorus impacts

  • Codifying a suite of biological criteria (biocriteria) that apply to various waterbody types and designated uses. These criteria are based on metrics that have been in use by the department for roughly a decade. Biocriteria directly measure the health of animal and plant communities, and link to the Designated Uses Rule Package, described above.
  • Establishing biological “phosphorus response criteria” for use in conjunction with phosphorus criteria to evaluate whether or not phosphorus-related impacts are occurring. This will enable impairment listing decisions to be based on whether an actual phosphorus-related biological response is occurring within the waterbody.

Site-specific criteria for phosphorus

  • Establishing protocols for developing site-specific criteria for phosphorus, to be applied to individual waterbodies where the statewide phosphorus criteria are over- or under-protective of a waterbody’s designated uses.
  • These protocols link to both the Designated Uses Rule Package, and the Biocriteria Rule Package, both described above. In other words, the three rules are interdependent - providing phosphorus flexibility requires establishment of biocriteria and updating designated uses.
Contact information
Please direct any questions to:
Kristi Minahan
Water Quality Standards Specialist
Last revised: Friday June 03 2016