An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Impaired Waters and TMDLs

Impaired Waters Restoration Process: Planning

Water restoration planning involves developing and completing TMDLs, or in some cases alternative restoration approaches, for the waters identified and listed as impaired. A TMDL is essentially a plan, usually based on monitoring information and scientific modeling that describes how pollutant loads coming from various types of sources must be reduced in order to meet water quality standards.

EPA recognizes that under certain circumstances there are alternative restoration approaches that may be more immediately beneficial or practicable in achieving WQS than pursuing the TMDL approach in the near-term. An alternative restoration approach is a near-term plan, or description of actions, with a schedule and milestones, that is more immediately beneficial or practicable to achieving WQS. TMDL Implementation Plans are also part of overall restoration planning. These plans are more specific than the TMDL itself in terms of what non-point source and point source pollution control actions will occur in what areas to achieve the goals of the TMDL.

Reports and Resources