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Florida’s Surface Water Quality Standards
Refining Designated Uses & Classifications

 

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has recently initiated a review of Florida’s current designated uses and associated water body classification system to determine if revisions are needed. DEP is undertaking this effort to ensure better protection for our lakes, rivers, springs, estuaries, coastal waters and even artificially created surface waters.

As we move through the rulemaking process, the public’s involvement in our evaluation of designated uses is vital.

Supporting Documents Frequently Asked Questions Definitions Contact Us


Supporting Documents
 

February 22, 2010 - Public Workshop
Workshop Agenda [PDF - 78 KB]

Process for Reclassifying the Designated Uses of Florida Surface Waters [PDF - 568 KB]

62-302.530 Surface Water Quality Criteria [PDF - 47 KB]

62-302 Surface Water Quality Standards [PDF - 65 KB]

• Workshop Presentations

Proposed Revisions to the State's Surface Water Classification System [PDF - 888 KB]

Summary of Public Comments and FDEP Responses [PDF - 1.38 MB]

 

January 7, 2010 - Public Workshop
Workshop Agenda [PDF - 37 KB]

Requirements for Reclassifying the Designated Uses of Florida Surface Waters [PDF - 401 KB]

62-302.530 Surface Water Quality Criteria [PDF - 47 KB]

62-302 Surface Water Quality Standards [PDF - 58 KB]

• Workshop Presentations

Proposed Revisions to the State's Surface Water Classification System [PDF - 1 MB]

 

November 18, 2009 - Public Workshop
Workshop Agenda [PDF - 33 KB]

Workshop Attendance List [PDF - 12 KB]

• Workshop Presentations

Designated Uses Overview [PDF - 6.46 MB]

Proposed Rule Language [PDF - 600 KB]

UAA Process Requirements [PDF - 5.46 MB]

 

November 10, 2009
• 62-302.400 - Classification of Surface Waters, Usage, Reclassification, Classified Waters [PDF - 103 KB]

August 19, 2009 – DRAFT Recommendations of the Designated Uses Policy Advisory Committee for the Refinement of Florida’s Surface Water Classification System
The draft report summarizes the recommendations of the Designated Uses Policy Advisory Committee (PAC), a stakeholder committee that evaluated whether Florida’s surface water classification system contained in Chapter 62-302, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), needs to be refined. The PAC evaluated whether the current classification system accurately captures the range of uses that exist within the state and allows appropriate expectations to be set for all waterbodies. This document summarizes issues and potential solutions discussed by the PAC and presents the PAC’s recommended classification system to the Secretary of the Department.

August 19, 2009 – Public Workshop Materials
Workshop Notice

Workshop Agenda [PDF - 33 KB]

Clean Water Act Requirements Presentation [PDF - 794 KB]

Proposed Revisions to Surface Water Classifications Presentation [PDF - 1.7 MB]

Workshop Attendee List [PDF - 15 KB]

Designated Uses Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) 2006-2007 Meeting Documents
In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) encouragement to refine designated uses and stakeholder requests to evaluate Florida’s classification system, DEP formed a PAC to consider the environmental, scientific, technical, economic, legal, and social factors involved with potential changes. Membership nominations were solicited from a wide range of stakeholders—environmental groups, local governments, other state agencies, business and industry, and the EPA—in order to select experts who represented diverse interests and who would bring balance to the discussions. Final PAC membership consisted of fourteen individuals from the list of nominees who agreed to participate. DEP staff provided administrative support for the PAC, including preparing meeting materials and meeting summaries, and supplied background information on legal processes and possibilities.

August 18, 2009 - Draft Rules Proposed
• 62-302.400 - Draft Classification of Surface Waters, Usage, Reclassification, Classified Waters [PDF - 92 KB] 

• 62-302.530 - Draft Aquatic Life Use Physical, Chemical, Biological Criteria [PDF - 37 KB]

• 62-302.530 - Draft Aquatic Life Criteria for Toxics Applicable to All Aquatic Life Use Tiers [PDF - 71 KB]

• 62-302.530 - Draft Human Use Criteria [PDF - 84 KB]

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Frequently Asked Questions
 

What are surface water quality standards?
Water quality standards are the basis for protecting and regulating the quality of surface waters in Florida. The standards implement portions of the federal Clean Water Act by specifying the designated and potential uses of waterbodies. They set scientifically established physical, chemical, and biological thresholds (criteria) to protect those uses. The standards also contain policies to protect high quality waters. Taken together these standards ensure that a water body is suitable for both human and aquatic life uses.

Florida’s surface water quality standards include a classification system that describes how a water body is best used– such as for drinking water supply, shellfish harvesting, swimming and recreation, aquatic habitat for fish and wildlife, or agricultural supply. The use classification describes the best attainable function or activity in a water body that is supported by a level of water quality (criteria).

Why refine them now?
In July, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) received a petition from the Florida Stormwater Association requesting formal rulemaking to amend the existing classification structure. Under federal law, DEP is responsible for reviewing and setting the state’s surface water quality standards. DEP has performed a comprehensive evaluation of designated uses and water body classifications and determined that refining the current system could improve protection of public health and the aquatic life that thrive in our rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands, and estuaries.

The current classification system has been in effect for more than 30 years, and scientific knowledge has advanced since then. We now know that factors other than water quality, such as aquatic habitat availability and water flow patterns, can greatly affect aquatic life. As DEP’s water quality protection programs adapt to the newer science and other changes, Florida now has an opportunity to improve the way we protect public health and aquatic life by modifying our designated uses classification system.

Is DEP lowering water quality standards?
No. DEP is looking for ways to improve surface water quality standards and develop more effective programs to protect and restore Florida’s water resources. DEP’s goal will always be to promote high standards through appropriate classification, permitting, water quality monitoring, and restoration. The refinements under consideration would expand the current classification system to better account for the differences between human and aquatic life uses and their unique protection needs. The expanded classification system will allow DEP to better protect pristine waters and establish more realistic goals for artificial waters.

Who is DEP working with on the possible changes to the reclassification system?
In 2006 DEP formed a Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) of independent experts to help the agency consider the environmental, scientific, technical, economic, legal, and social factors involved with potential changes.  Nominations were requested from a wide range of expert stakeholders—environmental groups, local governments, other state agencies, business and industry, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — to represent diverse interests and bring balance to the discussions.

With the submittal of the petition by the Florida Stormwater Association, the DEP will engage all interested parties in a rulemaking process.  Through formal rulemaking, workshops will be conducted, information will be disseminated through multiple channels, and recommendations from all parties will be considered.  The findings of the PAC will serve as the starting point for the rulemaking process. 

How would DEP change the classification of surface water?
Any change to a surface water’s designated use would require formal, public rulemaking and approval by the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) and EPA. With the current rulemaking, DEP only plans to refine the classification system. All waters will retain their current designated use, and any future change of use for an individual water will require separate rulemaking and additional approval from the ERC and EPA.

How will “impaired waters” and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) be affected? 
If the designated use of a surface water is not being met and maintained, the cause of the water quality degradation (“impairment”) must be identified and corrected.  The primary programs established to identify problems and restore water quality are TMDLs and Basin Management Action Plan process.  Changes to the classification system would not change the procedures of the TMDL program but will align water quality requirements with appropriate ecological goals and human uses.

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Definitions

  • The Florida Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) is an unpaid board of seven residents representing diverse interests, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, who approve standards relating to waste management, and air and water quality.
  • The current system has five classifications for waterbodies, Class I through Class V. Most of Florida’s waterbodies are Class III, meaning the water is expected to support recreation and a healthy, well-balanced fish and wildlife population.
  • A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is the amount of a particular pollutant that a water body can absorb without violating state water quality standards.
  • A Basin Management Action Plan is a comprehensive plan of regulatory and non-regulatory actions to meet the TMDLs for a given watershed.  

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Contact Us

If you have questions about water quality standards, designated uses, or the classification refinement process, or would like to be added to our mailing list, please email Ken Weaver or call 850-245-8414.

 

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Assessment and Restoration Support Program
2600 Blair Stone Road M.S. 3500
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
850-245-8346 (phone) / 850-245-8356 (fax)
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Last updated: May 24, 2012

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