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Bioassessment and Biocriteria Program Status for Georgia: Streams and Wadeable Rivers

State Program Contact

State of Georgia Environmental Protection Division Exit

Water Quality Standards

WQS Information
The link to Georgia's WQS that are in effect for Clean Water Act purposes is provided. These are the WQS approved by EPA.
The state of Georgia provided information and links to sections of their administrative code on designated aquatic life use, biological criteria, antidegradation as well as technical support documents and information on its bioassessment and biocriteria programs. These are included for your convenience and may or may not reflect the most recently EPA approved WQS. The following links exit the site Exit

You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. Refer to EPA’s about PDF page to learn more.

Designated Aquatic Life Uses
All designated uses within Georgia are designed to be protective of aquatic life. Some criteria vary based on the waters’ designation as cold water or warm water.

  • Fishing (cold water and warm water)
  • Drinking water
  • Recreation (primary and secondary contact)
  • Wild River
  • Scenic River
  • Coastal Fishing

Biological Criteria
__X__ Narrative statement
_____ Numeric
_____ No criteria

Georgia Water Use Classifications and Water Quality Standards (391-3-6-.03 (5)(e)) (PDF)(46 pp, 431 K)
All waters shall be free from toxic, corrosive, acidic and caustic substances discharged from municipalities, industries or other sources, such as nonpoint sources, in amounts, concentrations or combinations which are harmful to humans, animals or aquatic life.

Antidegradation Policy
Antidegradation policy located at 391-3-6-.03 (2) (PDF)(45 pp, 509 K)

Biological Assessment

What biological assemblages are used in the bioassessment program?
Benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, and periphyton

Are bioassessments used to support 303(d) listings?
Yes. Listing methodology: Georgia's 2020 305(b)/303(d) Listing Assessment Methodology (PDF)(19 pp, 250 K)

How are assemblages used to make impairment decisions?
Benthic macroinvertebrates and fish are independently utilized to determine impairments within streams. Those systems which are determined to be impaired via either fish or macroinvertebrate communities are placed on the 303(d) list as not supporting for Bio (F) or Bio (M), respectively.

Other uses of biocriteria or bioassessment within the water quality program:
305(b) surface water condition assessments, TMDL development and assessment, non-point source assessments (per Watershed Assessment monitoring requirements), BMP evaluation, and restoration goals

Technical Support Information and Documents:

Reference condition:
Georgia EPD continues to actively identify and monitor least impacted sites from year to year. Georgia EPD is also continuing to collect data in areas where no macro data exist. Once Georgia EPD has a larger dataset, we plan to reevaluate.  

Technical reference material:
Macroinvertebrate Bioassessment Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Metric Spreadsheets
Fish Community Biomonitoring Standard Operating Procedures and Scoring Criteria

Not available.

Stressor identification/causal analysis approach:
EPD conducts monthly water quality monitoring within streams which are assessed for periphyton and macroinvertebrate communities. In addition, EPD has partnered with EPA Region 4 and Georgia Wildlife Resources Division to determine potential stressors in fish communities throughout the Piedmont Ecoregion.

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