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Bioassessment and Biocriteria Program Status for West Virginia: Streams and Wadeable Rivers

State Program Contact

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Exit

Water Quality Standards

WQS Information
The link to West Virginia's WQS that are in effect for Clean Water Act purposes is provided. These are the WQS approved by EPA.
The state of West Virginia 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

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Designated Aquatic Life Uses
Category B Propagation and maintenance of fish and other aquatic life
  • B1 – Warmwater
  • B2 – Trout waters
  • B4 – Wetlands

Biological Criteria
__X__ Narrative statement
_____ Numeric
_____ No criteria

§47-2-1. General. 1.1. Scope.
These rules establish requirements governing the discharge or deposit of sewage, industrial wastes and other wastes into the waters of the state and establish water quality standards for the waters of the State standing or flowing over the surface of the State. It is declared to be the public policy of the State of West Virginia to maintain reasonable standards of purity and quality of the water of the State consistent with (1) public health and public enjoyment thereof; (2) the propagation and protection of animal, bird, fish, and other aquatic and plant life; and (3) the expansion of employment opportunities, maintenance and expansion of agriculture and the provision of a permanent foundation for healthy industrial development. (Refer to W. Va. Code §22-11-2.)

§47-2-3. Conditions Not Allowable In State Waters.

  • 3.1. Certain characteristics of sewage, industrial wastes and other wastes cause pollution and are objectionable in all waters of the state. Therefore, the Secretary does hereby proclaim that the following general conditions are not to be allowed in any of the waters of the state.
  • 3.2. No sewage, industrial wastes or other wastes present in any of the waters of the state shall cause therein or materially contribute to any of the following conditions thereof:
    • 3.2.i. Any other condition, including radiological exposure, which adversely alters the integrity of the waters of the State including wetlands; no significant adverse impact to the chemical, physical, hydrologic, or biological components of aquatic ecosystems shall be allowed.

Antidegradation Policy
Biological criteria are generally not used to implement antidegradation policies. The WQS (47CSR2 Section 4) describes the Antidegradation Policy
Antidegradation Implementation Procedures

Biological Assessment

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

Are bioassessments used to support 303(d) listings?
Yes. Listing Methodology: Described within the narrative section of the Integrated Report.

How are assemblages used to make impairment decisions?
New decision rules are currently being proposed. As currently proposed, the family level benthic macroinvertebrate multimetric IBI known as WVSCI is the primary tool used for assessments.  Genus level data is collected and may be used to help determine attainment status for waters where WVSCI is inconclusive. Procedural rule has not been finalized.  Fish data will not be included in the initial rule, but may be added in the future as IBI development progresses.

Other uses of biocriteria or bioassessment within the water quality program:
TMDL development and assessment, non-point source assessments, limited BMP evaluation, 305(b) surface water condition assessments, and restoration goals (Benthic IBI included in mitigation valuation)

Technical Support Information and Documents:

Reference condition:
We utilize a set of sites that meet all of the criteria spelled out in the linked document. Sites are identified as reference either via targeted sampling or other existing monitoring programs. Sites are best described as ‘least disturbed’, but in some more developed areas – ‘best available’ may fit better where some criteria may be slightly less stringent in order to get adequate number of sites.

Technical reference material:
2018 Final WAB Sampling SOP (PDF) (536 pp, 29 MB) – Reference sites – pp 2-14 to 2-17

Development of biocriteria involves the collection and interpretation of biological data – e.g. benthic macroinvertebrates and less often fish. During this process entities typically use biological metrics (usually aggregated into a multimetric index) and/or multivariate analysis to assess whether a waterbody is meeting its designated aquatic life use(s). The reference materials include standard operation procedures used in data collection, compilation, technical approaches used to develop biocriteria as well as its implementation procedures.

Technical reference material:
Numeric criteria under development: SOPs, Benthic and Fish IBIs, and Reference Criteria

Stressor identification/causal analysis approach:
WVDEP uses elements of EPA’s Stressor ID guidance (Comier, 2000) to identify stressors to benthic communities deemed impaired during TMDL development. 

Technical reference material:
Recent TMDL documents include descriptions of how stressor ID and causal analysis are used to determine which parameters may require load reductions. A good recent description can be found in Section 7 of the Technical Report of the Upper Guyandotte River Watershed TMDL (PDF) (59 pp, 2 MB)

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