Rhode Island's TMDL Program - One Step to Cleaner Waters

DEM and its partners routinely test Rhode Island's rivers, lakes, and tidal waters for pollutants to determine whether water quality is suitable for such uses as swimming, shellfishing, and fishing, and provides a healthy environment for fish and other aquatic life. Most rivers, lakes and estuaries in Rhode Island do meet water quality standards as described in the state's Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Reports, published biennially. To see summary statistics on Rhode Island’s Water Assessment Reports, visit EPA’s Water Quality Assessment and TMDL Information webpage.

Waters that do not meet standards are considered degraded and included on the State's 303(d) List of Impaired Waters. The federal Clean Water Act requires that states develop a Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL for all waters included on this list. TMDL is a term that represents the total amount of pollutants that a waterbody can assimilate and still meet water quality standards. DEM's Office of Water Resources conducts water quality restoration plans consistent with these requirements.

TMDL plans identify water quality goals, necessary pollutant reductions to achieve these goals, the sources of pollution found contributing to the pollution problems, and the necessary pollution control actions to achieve the required reductions and restore water quality. These water quality restoration studies are in essence a prescription for the waterbody's return to a safe and healthy aquatic ecosystem. DEM works with municipal officials, watershed groups and other partners and interested parties in developing the water quality restoration plans. Once a TMDL is completed including public review and comment on the draft plan, the document is submitted to US EPA for its final review and approval.

Completing the TMDL plan is just one step in restoring water quality. Typically, there are a variety of pollution sources - such as stormwater runoff, septic systems, erosion, and/or discharges from industrial uses or municipal wastewater treatment plants - contributing to the degraded water quality condition. Controlling these sources often entails investment in infrastructure improvements and management approaches, and involves state and municipal government, businesses, organizations, and even private citizens.

DEM encourages the involvement of local officials, watershed groups and other engaged citizens to inform the public of water quality concerns and actions needed to restore the state's waters. Community support is essential to making Rhode Island's waters cleaner. Clean water is essential to healthy communities and the State's economic prosperity.

If you would like to find out more about a particular project or waterbody that we are working on, please call (401) 222-4700.

To read more about the TMDL program on EPA’s website go to epa.gov/tmdl