Water Quality Planning Branch Home Page

Water Division

Sarah Clem, ADEQ Branch Manager - (501) 682-0660

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The Water Quality Planning Branch has seven biologists/ecologists and two geologists on staff. This branch deals with a variety of issues related to water quality monitoring and standards development, groundwater and wasteload allocations.  It has produced a number of reports on a variety of topics related to its work, see the List of Publications available online in PDF File format, also available in hard copy on request.

Water Quality Monitoring

Water Quality Monitoring includes the monitoring of the chemical constituents in the water and sediment of rivers, streams and lakes within the State and monitoring the biological communities and physical habitat within selected waters.

The chemical monitoring network on rivers and streams includes over 130 stations which are sampled monthly for more than 30 parameters, over 100 stations that are sampled on a bi-monthly or quarterly schedule and an additional 30-50 stations that are intensively sampled over a short period of time for special purposes. Some of these stations have been regularly sampled since the 1970s. Collection of the routine, monthly water samples is performed by the Water Divisionsí field inspectors and laboratory analyses are conducted by the Departmentís Technical Services Division. The quarterly or bi-monthly sampling of unassisted or reassessed waters is conducted by Planning Branch personnel with laboratory analyses by Tech Services. Synoptic, watershed-intensive surveys of the physical, chemical and biological conditions of a watershed are conducted by the Planning Section personnel.

Biological/Habitat Monitoring is currently restricted to special project needs associated with synoptic watershed surveys or for the development of additional data to support the establishment of biological criteria used to evaluate the biological integrity of a water body. Biological data collections consists primarily of the fish and macroinvertebrate communities of a stream, including species identification, enumeration and grouping by guilds such as families, tropic feeding levels, sensitivity to disturbances, etc. In addition, measurement of existing aquatic life habitat is necessary to identify habitat stressors that may be affecting the communities in addition to water quality contaminants.

The Lake and Reservoir Monitoring Program was not formalized until 1989 when the first statewide intensive monitoring of Arkansasí Significant Publicly-owned Lakes was conducted. This included measurement of approximately 30 chemical parameters plus bacteria and chlorophyll a. At least 80 lakes were included. They range in size from 60 to over 45,000 acres and total 356,254 acres. A second lakes survey was completed in 1994 and included a very similar plan, except sediment quality was added to the project.

Reports on monitoring projects are compiled regularly.  On-Line Searchable database of monitoring station lab results is now available online

Water Quality Monitoring Stations On-Line Searchable Database

Development and Update of Water Quality Standards

Arkansasí Surface Water Quality Standards, Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Regulation 2, include:

  • designation of uses for all waters of the State
  • narrative or numeric criteria designed to prevent impairment of the designated uses
  • a policy to prohibit degradation of waters of the State (anti-degradation policy).

The water quality standards are ecoregion based. Waters within each of the six ecoregions of the State have standards which were developed from data from least-disturbed streams within each ecoregion. These data were developed during an intensive, statewide study of the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of least-disturbed streams during 1983-1986.

At least every three years the water quality standards must be reviewed and updated where appropriate. Additionally, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission may be petitioned to amend the water quality standards at any time. The process for any amendment to the water quality standards includes

  • a 30 to 45 day public review period
  • consideration of and response to public comments
  • review of proposed amendments by the appropriate Committee of the Arkansas General Assembly
  • approval by the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission
  • approval by the Governor of Arkansas
  • approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Link to current Water Quality Standards Review

Nutrient Criteria Development

Nutrient Stakeholder Workgroup Presentation - Springdale, AR - July 17, 2014
Arkansas Nutrient Criteria Development Plan

Biennial Assessment of the Condition of Waters of the State

Every two years all water quality data from the Departmentís monitoring networks and any other readily available data is compiled into a report which describes the current condition of the Stateís waters. Waters which are not meeting the Water Quality Standards or are not supporting their designated uses are noted and scheduled for corrective action. This report, which is required by Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act, is also used to prepare the statewide nonpoint source assessment report, the list of impaired waters (Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act), the Index of Watershed Indicators and numerous other water quality management needs.

Link to the most recent Section 305(b) Report

Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL)

For waters that are not meeting water quality standards or have a significant potential not to meet standards as a result of point source discharges or nonpoint source activities, TMDLís are developed which establish the maximum amount of a pollutant that can enter a specific water body without violating the water quality standards. The values are normally calculated amounts based on dilution and the assimilative capacity of the water body. Calculations are performed by various models which predict safe levels of contaminants based on worst-case conditions and providing a margin of safety. The calculated safe amounts then may be allocated to point source discharges as a wasteload allocation (WLA) and to nonpoint sources as a local allocation (LA). This constitutes a TMDL.

Ground Water Protection Program

The basic responsibilities of the ground water program include budgeting and grant administration, ground-water quality planning and water-quality monitoring, and addressing gaps in ground-water protection through the development of guidelines and regulations.

One of the more important functions of the Program is the water-quality monitoring including ambient monitoring and research-oriented monitoring, such as investigation of pesticides in ground water in eastern Arkansas, nutrient and bacteria transport in shallow aquifer systems in northwest Arkansas, and salt-water intrusion into shallow aquifers in south-eastern Arkansas. The ambient ground-water monitoring program was developed in order to document existing ground-water quality in various aquifers throughout the State. Because each area of the State is sampled every three years, the data can be used to document trends and changes in water quality over time. The monitoring program currently consists of 195 well and spring sites in 9 different monitoring areas within the State. A full suite of inorganic parameters is analyzed for the samples, including all major cations and anions and trace metals. In addition, in areas where industry, landfills, and other facilities which store, manufacture or dispose organic chemicals, semi-volatile and volatile organic analyses are performed on the samples. Areas with row-crop agriculture commonly include pesticide analyses. Published reports for each area of the State are produced following each sampling event. A map of the established ground-water monitoring areas is available.

Link to Water-Quality Monitoring Searchable Database

In general, ground-water quality is very good to exceptional throughout the State. Exceptions to this situation are high iron concentrations and areas of high chloride content in localized areas of the Gulf Coastal Plain in eastern Arkansas. Impacts from non-point sources, although regional in scope, dominantly result in low level contamination below established health standards. Point-source or site-specific sources result in higher levels of contamination but are restricted to smaller areas (commonly on site boundaries). Program personnel work together with other divisions of the Department and other agencies in crafting guidelines and regulations to address both point-source and non-point sources of pollution. Although the state does not have a formal set of ground-water standards, the Water Division uses federal standards and health advisory limits to establish cleanup levels at contaminated sites.

Technical Review and Administration of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits Biomonitoring Program

The biomonitoring program of the NPDES permits system requires most major dischargers to perform toxicity tests of their effluent to determine if it is toxic to aquatic organisms at various concentrations which might occur in the receiving stream. The test procedure has a very rigorous protocol that must be followed, along with detailed statistical interpretations and several potential follow-up steps depending on the test results. The Planning Section assists the Permits Branch by preparing and reviewing biomonitoring language in the permits, reviewing toxicity test results for correct procedures, tracking the results of all testing done by permittees and contacting permittees to initiate required actions if toxicity is verified.

Short Term Authority

Pursuant to ß401(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act, the ADEQ hereby issues water quality certification for the certain project with certain conditions.

The following applicants are requesting water quality certification from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) in accordance with Section 401(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act.

Link to Short Term Activity Authorization files