Rule 2 - Water Quality Standards

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act) requires states to develop water quality standards to protect surface waters for aquatic life, sport, leisure, human consumption, and other uses. DEQ develops proposed water quality standards for Arkansas; after the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission (APC&EC) approves and adopts the standards, DEQ submits them to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for review and approval. When EPA’s review is complete they will send DEQ their Record of Decision. Once EPA approves the document, it can then be used for Clean Water Act purposes. Arkansas’s water quality standards are published in APC&EC Rule 2.

The Clean Water Act also requires that DEQ review the state's water quality standards every three years (see Triennial Review process). DEQ may petition the APC&EC to amend Rule 2 at any time. Third parties (entities outside of DEQ, such as industries or municipalities) may petition the APC&EC to amend water quality standards at any time. Typically this is done through a Use Attainability Analysis, Water Effects Ratio, or Environmental Improvement Project.

What are Water Quality Standards?

Water quality standards are designed to enhance the quality, value, and beneficial uses of the surface waters of Arkansas. They aid in the prevention, control, and abatement of water pollution; provide for the protection and propagation of fish and wildlife; and ensure that recreation in and on the water is safe. Standards must consist of three elements: designated uses, criteria to protect those uses, and an anti-degradation policy.

What are Designated Uses?

Designated uses are appropriate water uses to be achieved and protected for specific water bodies. Designated uses can include public water supply; the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife; recreational, agricultural, industrial, and navigational purposes; and ecological and aesthetic value. A single waterbody can have many designated uses at the same time. The creeks you swim in may also be used to irrigate farm land. The designated uses for Arkansas’s waterbodies are in Chapter 3 of Rule 2.

We have provided a brief description of designated uses. For the full description, see Rule 2, Designated Uses, 2.302. Rule 2 also includes a policy to prohibit the degradation of waters of the state.

  • Extraordinary Resource Waters – are characterized by scenic beauty, aesthetics, scientific values, broad scope recreation potential, and intangible social values.
  • Ecologically Sensitive Waterbody – provides habitat within the existing range of threatened, endangered, or endemic species of aquatic or semi-aquatic life forms.
  • Natural and Scenic Waterways – identifies segments which have been legislatively adopted into a state or federal system.
  • Primary Contact Recreation (swimmable) – involves full body contact.
  • Secondary Contact Recreation (wadeable) – involves secondary activities like boating, fishing, or wading.
  • Fisheries (fishable) – provides for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish and other forms of aquatic life.
  • Domestic Water Supply – is protected for use in public and private water supplies.
  • Industrial Water Supply – is used for process and cooling water.
  • Agricultural Water Supply – is used for irrigation of crops and/or consumption by livestock.

What are Criteria?

Criteria to protect water quality can be numeric or narrative. An example of numeric criteria is “The acceptable range for pH is from 6 to 9.” A narrative criterion is used in Rule 2, which states, “True color shall not be increased in any waters to the extent that it will interfere with present or projected future uses of these waters.” Criteria for general standards and specific standards can be found in chapters 4 and 5, respectively, of Rule 2.

What is Antidegradation?

Arkansas's Antidegradation Policy, found in Chapter 2 of Rule 2, is used to ensure protection of existing uses for all waters and provides extra protection for high quality waters or waters with unique aesthetic or ecological features.