Water Quality Division

Image of water taken under the water with a close-up of air bubbles rasing to the surface

Surface Water Monitoring and Assessment

Surface Water Quality Standards

The Surface Water Monitoring and Assessment program fulfills federal Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements for statewide water quality monitoring and assessments. Specific activities include providing critical information about water quality conditions and establishing water quality standards. ADEQ staff use monitoring data to assess whether lake and stream uses are protected by the CWA and can be used for recreation, drinking, agriculture, wildlife and fish consumption.

Designated Uses

The Clean Water Act and associated rules require states to identify how waterbodies are used – referred to as “designated uses.” Surface water quality standards are then associated to designated use(s) for a waterbody. A waterbody that does not meet standards for a designated use is considered “impaired” and a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) or watershed plan is developed. Learn more >

ADEQ has established the following designated uses for the state’s waterbodies:

  • Agricultural irrigation (AgI): The use of surface water for crop irrigation.
  • Agricultural livestock watering (AgL): The use of surface water as a water supply for consumption by livestock.
  • Aquatic and wildlife (cold water) (A&Wc): The use of a surface water by animals, plants, or other cold-water organisms, generally occurring at an elevation greater than 5,000 feet, for habitation, growth, or propagation.
  • Aquatic and wildlife (effluent-dependent water) (A&Wedw): The use of an effluent-dependent water by animals, plants or other organisms for habitation, growth, or propagation.
  • Aquatic and wildlife (ephemeral) (A&We): The use of an ephemeral water by animals, plants, or other organisms, excluding fish, for habitation, growth, or propagation.
  • Aquatic and wildlife (warm water) (A&Ww): The use of a surface water by animals, plants, or other warm-water organisms, generally occurring at an elevation less than 5,000 feet, for habitation, growth, or propagation.
  • Full-body contact (FBC): The use of a surface water for swimming or other recreational activity that causes the human body to come into direct contact with the water to the point of complete submergence. The use is such that ingestion of the water is likely and sensitive body organs, such as the eyes, ears, or nose, may be exposed to direct contact with the water.
  • Partial-body contact (PBC): The recreational use of a surface water that may cause the human body to come into direct contact with the water, but normally not to the point of complete submergence (for example, wading or boating). The use is such that ingestion of the water is not likely and sensitive body organs, such as the eyes, ears, or nose, will not normally be exposed to direct contact with the water.
  • Fish consumption (FC): The use of a surface water by humans for harvesting aquatic organisms for consumption. Harvestable aquatic organisms include, but are not limited to, fish, clams, turtles, crayfish, and frogs.

Public Health and the Environment

ADEQ works towards improving surface water quality in Arizona in order to protect public health and the environment. The Surface Water Quality Improvement team works with other programs across the Water Quality Division to ensure protection, including:

  • Source Water Protection for Public Water Systems | Learn more >
  • Safe Drinking Water Program for Public Water Systems | Learn more >
  • Drinking Water Public Notices | View >
  • Watershed Improvement for Arizona’s Surface Waters | Learn more >
  • Fish Consumption Advisories | View >

Status of Surface Water in Arizona

A primary focus of the program is preparing Arizona’s Integrated 305(b) Assessment and 303(d) Listing Reports that describe the status of surface water in Arizona in relation to state water quality standards and designated uses. The report lists Arizona’s impaired surface waters that require development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study and fulfills CWA requirements for assessments, impaired water identification and lake water quality (CWA sections 305(b), 303(d) and 314, respectively).