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Category One Waters

Category One waters are protected from any measurable changes in water quality because of their exceptional ecological significance, exceptional recreational significance, exceptional water supply significance, or exceptional fisheries resources. Category One waters have more stringent antidegradation requirements than Category Two waters.

Antidegradation/Category One Fact Sheet

Category One waters are defined in the existing Surface Water Quality Standards rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.4 as "those waters designated in the tables in N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.15(c) through (h), for purposes of implementing the antidegradation policies set forth in N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.5(d), for protection from measurable changes in water quality characteristics because of their clarity, color, scenic setting, other characteristics pf aesthetic value, exceptional ecological significance, exceptional recreational significance, exceptional water supply significance, or exceptional fisheries resource(s).

The Category One designation affords an additional layer of protection that helps prevent water quality degradation and discourages development where it would impair or destroy natural resources and environmental quality. To date, the Department has designated over 3,864 stream miles and 10,219 acres of lakes and reservoirs as Category One waters. Most of these designations were made in 1985 to include surface waters located within state and federal parks, wildlife management areas, and trout production waters. Since 1985, only streams upgraded to freshwater-trout production (FW2-TP) were designated as Category One waters.

In 2002, the Department began an intensive effort to identify additional waters that warranted enhanced protections afforded by this designation. The Department upgraded numerous stream miles based on Exceptional Ecological Significance and Exceptional Water Supply Significance, in addition to trout production waters. Exceptional Ecological Significance waters were designated as Category One based on the presence of suitable habitat and documented occurrences of aquatic-dependent Endangered and/or Threatened species, including Bog Turtle and Dwarf Wedge Mussel. Exceptional Water Supply Significance waters were designated as Category One if the waterbody was part of a water supply system that included reservoirs or streams which supply water to the reservoirs. High quality waters were identified and designated as Category One waters based on biological monitoring data including benthic macroinvertebrate community, habitat assessment, Fish Index of Biological Integrity (FIBI), and chemical water quality data. Trout Production Waters were designated as Category One when the Department determined that the stream supported trout production and classified the water as FW2-TP.

Since 2002, the Department has made several amendments to the SWQS stream classifications at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.15 to upgrade the stream classification and antidegradation designations. The most recently proposed amendments to the Surface Water Quality Standards include new Category One upgrades and would better define the qualifications necessary for waters to be considered for upgrade to Category One designation, as well as the data necessary to evaluate these qualifications.A more detailed description of the proposed amendments can be found on the Department's Web site.

The following links provide additional information about C1 waters:

For more information, please contact the Bureau of Water Quality Standards and Assessment at (609) 777-1753.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: August 6, 2019

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