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The Case for Regime-based Water Quality Standards

Aug 6, 2019


Conventional water quality standards have been successful in reducing the concentration of toxic substances in US waters. However, conventional standards are based on simple thresholds and are therefore poorly structured to address human-caused imbalances in dynamic, natural water quality parameters, such as nutrients, sediment, and temperature. A more applicable type of water quality standard—a “regime standard”—would describe desirable distributions of conditions over space and time within a stream network. By mandating the protection and restoration of the aquatic ecosystem dynamics that are required to support beneficial uses in streams, well-designed regime standards would facilitate more effective strategies for management of natural water quality parameters.


Geoffrey Poole, Jason Dunham, Druscilla Keenan, Sally Sauter, Dale McCullough, Christopher Mebane, Jeffrey Lockwood, Don Essig, Mark Hicks, Debra Sturdevant, Elizabeth Materna, Shelley Spalding, John Risley, and Marianne Deppman


Poole, G.C., J.B. Dunham, D.M. Keenan, S.T. Sauter, D.A. McCullough, C. Mebane, J.C. Lockwood, D.A. Essig, M.P. Hicks, D.J. Sturdevant, E.J. Materna, S.A. Spalding, J. Risley, and M. Deppman. 2004. The case for regime-based water quality standards. BioScience 54(2):155–161. Online at



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Media Type

Journal Article