The Surface Water Quality Standards (SWQS) establish antidegradation policies for all surface waters of the State (see N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.5(d)). The antidegradation policies require that all existing and designated uses shall be maintained and protected for all surface waters of the State and, where water quality exceeds levels necessary to support designated uses, existing water quality shall be maintained and protected unless the Department finds that allowing a lower water quality is necessary to accomodate important economic or social development.
The antidegradation policies provide three "tiers" of antidegradation protection for surface waters of the State:
Outstanding National Resource Waters
The first and most protective tier of antidegradation protection is Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRW), which applies to surface waters classified as freshwater 1 (FW1) waters, also known as nondegradation waters, and Pinelands (PL) waters. Nondegradation waters are set aside for posterity because of their unique ecological significance, exceptional recreational significance, or exceptional water supply significance. Nondegradation waters shall not be subject to any manmade wastewater discharges and the Department shall not approve any activity that might cause a lowering of existing surface water quality. PL waters are maintained in their natural state and changes are allowed only toward natural water quality.
Category One Waters
The second tier of antidegradation protection applies to surface waters designated as Category One waters. Category One waters are protected from any measurable change in water quality because of their exceptional ecological significance, exceptional recreational significance, exceptional water supply significance, or exceptional fisheries resources. Category One waters are protected from any measureable change in existing water quality.
Category Two Waters
The third tier of antidegradation protection, Category Two, is a "default" designation that applies to all surface waters except those designated as ONRW or Category One waters. As with Category One waters, Category Two waters are protected from any measurable change in existing water quality; however, some lowering of existing water quality may be allowed by the Department based on a social or economic justification.
For more information, please contact the Bureau of Water Quality Standards and Assessment at (609) 777-1753.