Surface Water Quality

The Office of Water Resources (OWR) implements the state's Water Quality Standards Program. The Water Quality Standards Program is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The purpose of this program is to restore, preserve, and enhance the water quality of Rhode Island waters, to maintain existing uses and to protect the waters from pollutants so that the waters shall, where attainable, be fishable and swimmable, and be available for all designated uses and thus assure protection for the public health welfare, and the environment. These objectives are implemented through the water quality standards which are a fundamental element of the state's Water Quality Regulations. The water quality standards are developed to define water quality goals for state's waters by deciding what their uses will be (designated uses) and by setting criteria necessary to protect those uses. In addition to establishing water quality goals for state waters, surface water quality standards also serve as the regulatory basis for the establishment of water-quality-based-treatment controls and strategies beyond technology-based controls.

The present water quality condition of each waterbody may, or may not, fully support the designated use (swimming, shellfish consumption, aquatic life, etc.). To evaluate the current level of use support attainment of the state's waters, water quality data is collected and compared to the appropriate criteria for each designated use. Historically, the Rhode Island 305(b), State of the State's Waters Report provided information on the quality of all assessed waters in the state relative to their designated uses and the criteria established in the Rhode Island Water Quality Regulations. Any waterbody that is assessed as not meeting its water quality standards (designated uses and criteria) under the 305(b) assessment process, is placed on the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters.

Recent EPA guidance recommends that states integrate their CWA Section 305(b) water quality assessment report and their CWA Section 303(d) impaired waters list into a single document known as the Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report (Integrated Report) which includes a five-part integrated list format for reporting the water quality assessment status of the state's waters. As part of this new reporting format, states are required to document the assessment and listing methodology utilized to assess the waters of the state for development of the integrated list of waterbodies. The methods the Department uses to develop the Integrated Reports are described in the Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology (RI CALM). This document includes a description of the quality assurance requirements, methods used to evaluate water quality data and assess water quality standards attainment, and the rationale for the placement of waterbodies into the integrated list.

For information on the surface water quality condition of a particular waterbody in the state, please contact or (401) 222-3961.