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EPA Releases Draft Criteria to Help Protect Lakes and Reservoirs

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EPA Press Office (

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new, draft ambient water quality criteria recommendations for nutrients in lakes and reservoirs. The agency’s criteria recommendations serve as important resources that states and authorized tribes can use to protect public health, pets, and aquatic life from the adverse effects of excess nutrients in surface waters, including during the summer recreation season.

“Under the Trump Administration, we are working with states, tribes and farmers from across the country to develop a wide range of tools that will reduce excess nutrients in America’s water bodies,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. “These draft criteria are the first update to EPA’s recommended nutrient criteria in almost 20 years. This flexible approach is based on the latest scientific information and will help States and Tribes protect lakes and reservoirs from harmful algal blooms.”

When finalized, these recommendations will replace EPA’s previously recommended ambient nutrient criteria for lakes and reservoirs that were published in 2000 and 2001. Using statistical stressor-response relationships that incorporate data collected from approximately 1,800 lakes, the draft criteria recommendations represent the latest scientific knowledge regarding the concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus that are protective of drinking water sources, recreational uses and aquatic life in lakes and reservoirs. EPA developed national statistical models that provide a flexible approach for deriving numeric nutrient criteria. States and authorized tribes can incorporate local data into the national models to help develop numeric nutrient criteria that are consistent with national relationships while accounting for unique local conditions. States, territories and authorized tribes can consider adopting the resulting criteria into their water quality standards but are not compelled to revise existing EPA-approved criteria or total maximum daily load targets.

Under the Trump Administration, EPA is focusing its attention on reducing excess nutrients in the nation’s waters through an all-of-the-above approach, which includes enhanced federal and state coordination, stakeholder engagement, and promoting market-based and other collaborative approaches to water quality improvements. Examples include providing grant funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Farmer to Farmer Cooperative Agreements, hosting an innovative nutrient financing webinar series and national forum, issuing a water quality trading policy memorandum, and co-chairing the Hypoxia Task Force.

EPA is requesting input via public comment for 60 days on the new draft recommendations. For more information, visit: