This report provides an approach for the development of nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) numeric endpoints for use in the water quality programs of the California’s State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) and Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Water Boards).
The approach provides a methodology to support several water quality program components including: setting numeric limits for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits; development of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) nutrient numeric endpoints; and for those Regional Water Boards that choose to, the development of numeric nutrient criteria.
Guidance for this technical report comes from participants at workshop (Nutrient Numeric Endpoints Training Workshop held on May 18 & 19 2005 in Sacramento, CA) that is a part of a longer running process that has been sponsored by EPA Region IX and the State Water Board. The workshop summary (Summary of May 18-19, 2005 Nutrient Workshop) of this workshop can be downloaded from the project website: http://rd.tetratech.com/epa/.
The CA Nutrient Numeric Endpoints process includes a Regional Technical Advisory Group (RTAG); and a collaborative forum of Regional Water Boards, Tribes, and other state and federal agencies in the State Regional Technical Advisory Group (STRTAG). The result of the RTAG / STRTAG process is an approach that has achieved a high level of consensus among participants. The purpose of this document is to describe the approach that has been reviewed and approved by the STRTAG.
The intention of the proposed approach is to select nutrient response indicators that can be used to evaluate risk of use impairment, rather than using pre-defined nutrient limits that may or may not result in eutrophication for a particular water body.
The report provides a description of the proposed approach that includes innovative elements such as:
- A water body classification framework that uses three Beneficial Use risk classification categories;
- Risk-based secondary indicators that are more closely linked to Beneficial Use condition than water column nutrient concentrations; and
- Modeling tools that provide the necessary linkage analysis between secondary indicators and water column nutrient concentrations. The modeling tools also account for site-specific cofactors such as flow, light availability, and others.
This report provides the starting point for a process that will lead to refinements in the classification framework, secondary indicators, and linkage analysis modeling tools through the development of site-specific endpoints. The report has been reviewed by workshop participants; other State, Federal, and Tribal staff; and the Technical Evaluation Committee identified in Appendix 1. This report includes changes made in response to comments received.
As an adaptive management process technical updates will be made and new dated editions of this document will be made available. A potential outcome of this process is the adoption of the framework and endpoints by various Regional Water Quality Control Boards for use as nutrient numeric criteria.