The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) to report on the quality of its surface waters every two years. Oregon released its draft 2018/2020 Integrated Report in September 2019, and is open for public comments until January 6, 2020.
What Is the "Integrated Report"?
CWA Section 305(b) requires ODEQ to develop a status report on Oregon waters, and Section 303(d) requires ODEQ to list those that are "water quality limited." That is, ODEQ must determine which Oregon waters contain pollutants at levels exceeding protective water quality standards. This “Integrated Report” is the state’s most comprehensive evaluation of water quality data, and lists all impaired waters in the state for which Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) pollutant limits need to be developed.
A water body is listed as impaired if data or information indicates that at least one beneficial use for that waterbody is not being fully supported, and a TMDL or other plan is needed to address this issue. Once ODEQ issues the final Integrated Report, it will be submitted to EPA for approval.
Why Does This Matter?
The methodology that ODEQ adopted in preparing this Integrated Report resulted in a significant increase of Oregon’s river miles qualified as "impaired," from 33% in 2012 to 44% in 2018. Most commonly, the unsupported use justifying an “impaired” designation is Fish and Aquatic Life, largely driven by non-attainment of the temperature criteria.
Through the TMDL process, ODEQ determines the amount of a pollutant a water body can receive without violating the applicable water quality standard, and then allocates that load among point sources and nonpoint sources, which could have implications on industries deemed to contribute to the load.