A water quality standard (WQS) defines the water quality goals of a water body, or portion thereof, by designating the use or uses to be made of the water and by setting criteria necessary to protect the uses. States and EPA adopt WQS to protect public health or welfare, enhance the quality of water and serve the purposes of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Serve the purposes of Act (as defined in sections 101(a)(2) and 303(c) of the Act) means that WQS should, wherever attainable, provide water quality for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish and wildlife and for recreation in and on the water and take into consideration their use and value for public water supplies, propagation of fish, shellfish, wildlife, recreation in and on the water, and agricultural, industrial and other purposes including navigation.
Such standards serve the dual purposes of establishing the water quality goals for a specific water body and serving as the regulatory basis for establishment of water quality-based treatment controls and strategies beyond the technology-based level of treatment required by sections 301(b) and 306 of the Act. States shall review and revise WQS in accordance with applicable regulations and, as appropriate, update their Water Quality Management (WQM) plans to reflect such revisions. Specific WQS requirements are found in 40 CFR part 131.