The Water Quality Branch (WQB) is responsible for monitoring and assessing the quality of water in the state's streams, lakes and wetlands. The Water Quality Branch revises water quality standards and criteria, classifies surface waters for designated uses (e.g., cold water or warmwater aquatic habitat, outstanding state resource waters, swimming [primary contact recreation] and domestic water supply) and interprets standards for Kentucky Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit decisions. The WQB also serves as the scientific advisors for the Division of Water on many topics related to environmental emergencies (spills), evaluation of technical and scientific reports/data, and emerging issues such as specific conductivity and selenium criteria.
Each state must review, adopt and submit water quality standards to the U.S. EPA that are sufficient to protect each designated use for waters of the state. Those designated use provisions for water bodies may be found in sections 101(a) and 303(c) of the Water Quality Act of 1972 (P.L. 92-500) (act), as subsequently amended; whereas uses specific to Kentucky may be found in 401 KAR 10:026 (http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/kar/TITLE401.HTM). An antidegredation policy consistent with Section 131.12 of the act is required as part of each state’s water quality standards.
At a minimum, the act requires states to review its water quality standards every three years to determine if updates to criteria need amended or updated, and hold a public hearing. This review is undertaken by the Division of Water. It consists, at a minimum, of review of current state water quality criteria for pollutants compared to current national water quality criteria, adoption of new national criteria as appropriate, consideration of any developed site-specific criteria, appropriateness of designated water body uses, definitions, provisions and specifications.
The Integrated Report (IR) is submitted biennially (every even-number year) to the U.S. EPA on the condition of water resources in the Commonwealth. This report is required under sections 303(d), 305(b) and 314 of the Federal Water Pollution Control (or Clean Water) Act of 1972 (P.L. 92-500). In 2006, the Division of Water adopted the IR format per the U.S. EPA Guidance of 2006. One of the advantages of the IR format are the use of reporting categories so each water body and segment can be conveniently tracked according to appropriate listing requirements.
This report is produced in two volumes, each representing requirements of sections 305(b) and 314 (Volume I) and 303(d) (Volume II) of the act. Volume I contains the assessment methods, processes, overview of the Commonwealth’s water resources, monitoring programs statistical findings, georeferencing of monitored waters and assessment results. Volume II of the IR lists those waters and segments that were not fully supporting one or more assessed designated use and require development of a TMDL (total maximum daily limit).
In addition to reporting the condition of monitored water bodies, the report includes an update of special waters that may be determined as a result of biennial monitoring. Special waters (exceptional and reference reach) are those determined as having better water quality and habitat then is necessary to support minimal uses (i.e. waters that support a balanced population of shellfish, fish and wildlife). These water bodies and segments are listed as candidate waters for inclusion under the antidegredation policy in 401 KAR 10:030. These waters may subsequently be considered for outstanding state resource water use during the triennial review.
Collects and assesses physicochemical and biological data for rivers, streams and lakes throughout the state; reviews water quality impacts on aquatic biological systems; and prepares summaries and reports of this information.
Kentucky Wild Rivers Program and Outstanding States Resource Waters
Administers the Kentucky Wild Rivers Program, including monitoring water quality, enforcing land-use compliance, evaluating for future designation, educating users and landowners and land/watershed preservation through fee simple acquisition and conservation easements.
Water Quality Certification Section
The Water Quality Certification (WQC) program in Kentucky ensures that activities involving a discharge into waters of the state and requiring a federal permit or license, are consistent with Kentucky's water quality standards in Title 401, Chapter 10, of the Kentucky Administrative Regulations.
Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Section
The TMDL Section collects biological and chemical data on impaired waters and prepares reports for impaired water bodies listed in Volume 2 of the Integrated Report (i.e., the 303(d) list). A Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can assimilate and still meet water quality standards. It is also an allocation of the allowable load of a particular pollutant to the source(s) of the pollutant, which includes point sources, nonpoint sources and natural conditions in the environment.
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