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  Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards

Surface Water Quality Standards - Antidegradation Designations

The Surface Water Quality Standards (SWQS) establish antidegradation policies for all surface waters of the State (see N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.5(d)). The antidegradation policies require that all existing and designated uses shall be maintained and protected for all surface waters of the State; impaired waters must be restored to meet SWQS; and existing water quality shall be maintained. The three tiers of antidegradation designations are described below:

The first and most protective tier of antidegradation protection is Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRW), which applies to surface waters classified as freshwater 1 (FW1) waters, also known as nondegradation waters, and Pinelands (PL) waters. Nondegradation waters are set aside for posterity because of their unique ecological significance, exceptional recreational significance, or exceptional water supply significance. Nondegradation waters shall not be subject to any manmade wastewater discharges and the Department shall not approve any activity that might cause a lowering of existing surface water quality. PL waters are maintained in their natural state and changes are allowed only toward natural water quality.

The second tier of antidegradation protection applies to surface waters designated as Category One waters. Category One waters are protected from any measurable change in water quality because of their exceptional ecological significance, exceptional recreational significance, exceptional water supply significance, or exceptional fisheries resources. Category One waters are protected from any measurable change in existing water quality.

The third tier of antidegradation protection is Category Two. While the same water quality criteria apply to Category One and Category Two waters, some lowering of existing water quality may be allowed in Category Two waters based upon a social and/or economic justification. However, existing and designated uses must be protected in all cases and waterbodies that are generally not meeting criteria must be improved to meet water quality criteria. All waterbodies not designated as ONRW or Category One receive the Category Two antidegradation designation.

The Department has developed a digital representation of the stream classifications and antidegradation designations established under the SWQS. This digital representation is available as a data layer (coverage) in the Department's Geographic Information System (GIS). Updates to the current stream classification map and the corresponding GIS coverage are made periodically. The map and the GIS coverage are provided for informational purposes only and are not legally binding. When interpreting the SWQS, the written standards found in the most recently adopted SWQS rules (N.J.A.C. 7:9B) always take precedence.

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

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