Alaska Antidegradation Policy

Alaska Antidegradation Policy

The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires each state to set water quality standards.  CWA water quality standards have three elements:

  • Designated Uses: States designate water bodies for specific uses such as fishing and swimming.
  • Water Quality Criteria: These maintain water quality for each designated use by establishing numeric and narrative criteria that establish limits on levels of pollutants
  • Antidegradation Policy: maintain and protect existing water quality

Antidegradation policy has three tiers:

  1. Source: Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

    Protects existing uses and the water quality conditions necessary to support such uses.

  2. Protects “high quality waters” where the water quality exceeds that necessary to support propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and recreation in and on the water
  3. Provides a mechanism to protect waters of exceptional ecological or recreational significance as outstanding national resources waters (ONRWs).  Alaska DEC identifies ONRWs with public input.  No ONRWs have yet been designated in Alaska.

Although the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, Alaska did not adopt an antidegradation policy until 1996.  The CWA requires the state to have an implementation plan for its antidegradation policy.  Federal law states that am implementation policy must:

  1. Protect existing in-stream uses (for example drinking water, aquatic habitat, aquaculture) and the water quality necessary to protect those uses,
  2. Protect waters that exceed minimum water quality criteria for those uses (99% of Alaskan waters) unless there are important social and economic benefits associated with allowing the lowering of water quality (degradation).  This implies both the need for an alternatives analysis and a socioeconomic analysis, and
  3. Protect the quality of Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRW’s).

What has Alaska done to implement an Antidegradation Policy?

Further Reading

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