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  Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards

Surface Water Quality Standards

The Surface Water Quality Standards (SWQS), N.J.A.C. 7:9B, establish the designated uses and antidegradation categories of the State's surface waters, classify surface waters based on those uses (i.e., stream classifications), and specify the water quality criteria and other policies and provisions necessary to attain those designated uses. Designated uses include drinking water supply, fish consumption, shellfish resources, propagation of fish and wildlife, recreation, and agricultural and industrial water supplies. In addition, the SWQS specify general, technical, and interstate policies, and policies pertaining to the establishment of water quality-based effluent limitations. Under the SWQS, all existing and designated uses shall be maintained and protected for all surface waters of the State. Surface water quality that is better than the applicable criteria must also be maintained and protected. These antidegradation protections apply to all surface waters of the State. Surface waters of the State include rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands, estuaries, and near shore coastal waters.

Surface Water Quality Standards Fact Sheet

The SWQS are used to develop regulatory requirements for other Department programs that will serve to protect the existing and designated uses of the State's surface waters. These programs include the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) program, Site Remediation Program, and various programs implemented by the Division of Land Use Regulation. The SWQS also form the basis for the Department's Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, which is developed and submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency every two years pursuant to Sections 303(d) and 305(b) of the CWA. The Integrated Report assesses use attainment for all waterbodies of the State, as well as the degree of use impairment, if any. Waterbodies that are impaired due to an exceedance of the SWQS require the development of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), which represent the assimilative capacity of surface water for a given parameter of concern. The SWQS operate in conformance with the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1313(c)), commonly known as the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Federal Water Quality Standards Regulation at 40 CFR 131. Under the state statutory authority granted by N.J.S.A. 13:1D-1 seq., 58:10A-1 et seq., and 58:11A-1 et seq., the SWQS are codified in New Jersey's regulations as N.J.A.C. 7:9B. The Surface Water Quality Standards rules are amended and readopted from time to time to address changes in use classification, water quality criteria, antidegradation provisions, and other policies or because the rules are about to expire and must be readopted pursuant to the New Jersey Administrative Procedure Act at N.J.S.A. 52:14B-1 et seq. Proposed and adopted amendments to the SWQS rules from 2002 through the present, and their corresponding basis and background documents, are available on this Web site's Technical Support Documents web page.

The Department has developed an electronic compendium of standards for water and soil promulgated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Included are Surface Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:9B; Ground Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:9C; Drinking Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:10; and soil remediation standards from the Remediation Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:26D. The compendium includes the standards and information about the basis for the standards contained in the above referenced rules. The standards in these rules are used by the Department's regulatory programs to establish site-specific requirements in accordance with the appropriate regulations. Please refer to the official versions of these rules for the most accurate information about the standards currently in effect and how they are administered by the Department. Information on obtaining the official versions of Department rules is available on the Department's Web site at

Click here for information about obtaining an official copy of the GWQS rules.

For more information, please contact Kimberly Cenno, Bureau Chief,
Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards at (609) 633-1441.

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Last Updated: July 31, 2017