DNR seeks comments on updated surface water assessment guidance

MADISON – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on guidance that helps evaluate the status of the state’s surface water quality.

The Wisconsin Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology, known as WisCALM, provides guidance to assess surface water quality and trends against standards set by the Clean Water Act. The methodology is updated for each biennial surface water assessment cycle and the current guidance is being updated for the 2018 cycle.

Ashley Beranek, DNR water resources management specialist, said this year’s updates include:

  • A new numeric criteria quick-reference section at the beginning of the document. This includes tables of numeric criteria and links to further descriptions within WisCALM.
  • Added language on chloride assessments. This represents a clarification rather than a change in criteria or assessment methods.
  • Lake total phosphorus targets for fish and aquatic life that have been updated to match the recreation use criteria. There is no change in codified total phosphorus criteria.

Beranek said the updates do not increase the number of waters included on DNR’s list of impaired waters. Assessing water bodies against water quality standards and identifying impaired waters that don’t meet standards is part of the overarching federal Clean Water Act framework for restoring impaired waters.

Under the Clean Water Act, states are required to monitor and assess their waters to determine if they meet water quality standards and support the designated uses they are intended to provide. Wisconsin’s surface water quality is good and improving in many areas; by updating the technical guidance and maintaining the impaired waters list, the state works to address changes through targeted improvement plans.

Public comments on the latest WisCALM guidance can be made according to the process described on the following website: Proposed DNR Program Guidance. Comments also may be submitted to: dnrimpairedwaters@wisconsin.gov or via mail to Ashley Beranek, DNR, Bureau of Water Quality, 101 S. Webster St. WQ/3 Madison, WI 53707

The public comment period runs from Dec. 20, 2016 to Jan. 27, 2017.

A copy of the draft guidance can be downloaded by clicking on the following link: Draft 2018 WisCALM. For more about these changes, visit dnr.wi.gov and refer to the Water condition assessments & reporting page.