What is the Triennial Review?

The Clean Water Act requires that surface water quality standards be reviewed and updated, if necessary, every three years through a rulemaking process known as the “Triennial Review”. Proposed revisions to the standards are published for review by the public and local, state and federal agencies before beginning the formal state rulemaking process. Final action on the proposed rules is made by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council.

What’s at stake?

New rules may be proposed by Arizona Department of Environmental Quality that change the standards governing permissible levels of pollution in Arizona streams and lakes. New rules may revise which water bodies receive water quality protection under the Clean Water Act and which are ineligible for continued protection under that program. The Governor’s Office has approved an exemption to the rule-making moratorium for this Triennial Review.

What are surface water quality standards?

Surface water quality standards (A.A.C. R18-11 Article 1) are state regulations or rules that protect lakes, rivers, streams and other surface water bodies from pollution.. Arizona’s surface water quality standards apply to all surface waters within the state (A.A.C. R18-11-101(41)), with the exception of those waters that are within Indian Country, as defined in 18 U.S.C. Section 1151. Surface waters include rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands, and reservoirs.
Beneficial uses include drinking water, fishing, aquatic and wildlife habitat, recreation, agriculture, irrigation and others. Water quality criteria are used to establish numeric and narrative standards necessary to protect and ensure that beneficial uses are attained. A surface water may have more than one designated use assigned to it. When trying to decide which standard to use, always take the lowest and most protective based on the applicable designated uses. Under the surface water quality standards, 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 water of the State.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is in charge of the Triennial Review.

Here are some related resources:
June 21, 2017 public meeting powerpoint
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Triennial Review Rulemaking
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Stakeholder Engagement Materials
For more information about community engagement and the Triennial Review, check out this powerpoint.

The Triennial Review of Surface Water Quality Standards