Beneficial Uses Explained
Beneficial Uses are designated to each of the state’s waterbodies as a requirement of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). Beneficial Uses are the kinds of activities that a waterbody can be used for. They are based upon physical, chemical, and biological characteristics, as well as geographical setting, scenic qualities, and economic considerations. If a waterbody does not meet the requirements as set forth in the Water Quality Standards it is considered "Impaired" and are listed as such on the Clean Water Act 303d List of Impaired Waters created by the CWA. Appropriate uses for each waterbody are identified by considering the following:
- Fish and Wildlife Propagation: The suitability of a waterbody to support a full range of fish and wildlife
- Primary Body Contact: Waterbodies where complete body submersion is deemed likely to occur. This would include activities such as swimming
- Secondary Body Contact: Waterbodies where complete body submersion is deemed less likely to occur. This would be those waterbodies where activities may be limited to just boating or wading
- Public and Private Water Supply: The use of a waterbody to provide drinking water
- Agriculture: The suitability of a waterbody for activities such as irrigation or livestock watering
- Aesthetics: The scenic qualities of a waterbody; this would include color and clarity
- Navigation: The suitability of a waterbody for shipping purposes, such as the waters associated to the Kerr-McClellan Navigation System.
- Fish Consumption: The suitability of a waterbody to be able to support fish that can be safely eaten as food
For each waterbody, the assigned Beneficial Uses have water quality criteria. Each Beneficial Use is assessed using a different set of criteria. These criteria are designed to maintain a waterbody at a level necessary to meet its designated uses.
More on Beneficial Uses...