Clean Water Act
The mission of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment. We work as partners with individuals, organizations, governments and businesses to prevent pollution and restore our natural resources.
Please scroll down to view the Integrated Report or use the top and side menus to jump to a topic. If problems are encountered while viewing content, please try opening the website using another web browser. Changing the browser zoom level may also provide a better user experience.
Public participation for this Integrated Report will be from (April 20th, 2019 to June 4th, 2019). DEP encourages the public to provide constructive comments during this period. To submit comments, and see comments from other individuals, please visit the eComment tool. The links to view and comment on the Integrated Report will be made available in the “Open Comment Periods” section at the top of the eComment website during the public comment period. Written comments can also be mailed to Department of Environmental Protection, Policy Office, Rachel Carson State Office Building, P.O. Box 2063, Harrisburg, PA 17105. DEP suggests that comments be organized using the main headings above (e.g., Introduction, Section 303(d), Section 305(b), etc.), or by using the subheadings to the left of the screen and titled in BLUE on each slide (e.g., Home, Mission, Purpose, etc.). Simply hover over the gray dots to the left of the screen to see all subheadings and navigate to them at any point. Persons in need of accommodations as provided for in the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 should contact DEP’s Water Quality Division at 717-787-9637 or through the Pennsylvania AT&T Relay Service at 800-654-5984 (TTD) to discuss how DEP may accommodate their needs.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this report is based on the data contained in DEP information systems and reports at the time of publication. Most information pertains to the biennial reporting period (October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2017); however, some information may cover longer periods of record. Some datasets may be incomplete due to DEP’s jurisdictional restrictions.
This report is the thirteenth in a series of reports prepared for Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 303(d) listing, and Section 305(b) reporting. This listing and report are compiled and submitted to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) once every two years. Unlike the 305(b) report, EPA must approve or disapprove the 303(d) list.
The narrative that follows contains the data and results used to satisfy the requirements of Sections 303(d) and 305(b). This report covers the current status of Pennsylvania's waters and summarizes various programs in place to protect and improve water quality.
Although reporting for the CWA has a long history, this is the first time an Integrated Report has been created in an entirely interactive format by any state in the country. This offers the ability to convey tremendous amounts of information in a way that is much easier to understand. DEP hopes this will greatly increase transparency and public understanding of the programs in place to protect our waters. Click here to discover more DEP interactive websites, mapping applications, and story maps.
Pennsylvania is a water rich state with approximately 85,000 miles of streams and rivers connecting over 700,000 acres of lakes, bays, and wetlands. Protection of these waters and the groundwater below is a challenging, but vital mission.
|State Surface Area (square miles)||45,333|
|Number of Major Surface Water Basins||6|
|Total Miles of Rivers and Streams||85,146*|
|Number of Significant, Publicly Owned Lakes||228|
|Acres of Significant, Publicly Owned Lakes||99,654|
|Square Miles of Delaware Estuary||17|
|Square Miles of Presque Isle Bay||6|
|Miles of Great Lakes Shore||63††|
|Acres of Freshwater Wetlands||376,473|
|Acres of Tidal Wetlands||56|
As part of the obligation to protect Pennsylvania’s waters, DEP conducts protected use (e.g., Aquatic Life, Water Supply, Recreation and Fishing, etc.) assessments. For more information on Pennsylvania’s protected uses see 25 Pa. Code § 93.3.
Assessment determinations fall into three general statuses (i.e., attaining, impaired, or unassessed). For example, a body of water is considered “impaired” if it fails to meet one or more water quality standards. The categories to the right follow these general statuses but add more qualifiers. Click on each category to view its description. Category 5 and 5alt are the “list” of impaired waters (i.e., 303(d) list) that require development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). In the process of developing this list, a full status of all waters is created to satisfy Sections 305(b) and 314 reporting requirements. It is the integration of these requirements that creates the structure and function of DEP’s Integrated Report. A fully interactive mapping application with advanced search and download features is also available with DEP’s Integrated Report Viewer.
DEP also produces a list of changes that were made from the previous (2016) Integrated Report. Click below to explore these changes.
Just like Pennsylvania’s waters, the datasets used to create this report are extensive. Explore the chart to see what types of data DEP uses. Most data used to build this report originate from DEP’s data collection protocols and assessment methods. Combined with a comprehensive assessment plan, these protocols and methods allow DEP to make sound decisions regarding water quality. Click below to see DEP’s comprehensive monitoring and assessment plan.
DEP also readily accepts all outside datasets. By using a set of acceptance tiers, DEP ensures that all data are used according to their purpose and level of quality assurance. Click below to see DEP’s data acceptance policy and the data solicitation report.
Section 303(d) is the list of impaired waters that require development of a TMDL (Category 5). Once a TMDL is approved by EPA, these waters will be placed in Category 4a until water quality standards are achieved.
Starting in 2016, DEP created an Integrated Report Viewer that allows users to view the status of waters in all reporting categories. This viewer has significantly increased the usability and transparency of the Integrated Report, but users can still download the information for each category in tabular form in the "Uses and Categories" section of this report. Click on the map to explore all Category 5 waters.
The 5alt category – known as restoration alternatives – is a list of waters across Pennsylvania where implementation of restoration activities will begin immediately without development of a TMDL. DEP first incorporated the 5alt category in the 2016 Integrated Report. Waters are selected to be in the 5alt category because they have implementation plans and active public engagement. The goal of Category 5alt is to restore water quality before TMDLs are written, which brings possible advantages to the regulated community. Category 5alt still requires that a TMDL be completed unless water quality standards are achieved within a reasonable amount of time.
Click on the map to view Category 5alt waters. Category 5alt may also be downloaded as a table in the "Uses and Categories" section of this report.
As part of Section 303(d), states are required to set prioritization ranking for impaired waterbodies. DEP conforms with this requirement by creating a list of watersheds that are identified as restoration priorities. For more information on how waters are selected as restoration priorities, DEP has created a restoration prioritization strategy.
Click on the map to view the current set of restoration priority watersheds. These priority watersheds, along with cause(s) of impairment, may also be viewed in table format below:
As part of 303(d), EPA may request additional information to support decisions states make. For 2018, EPA has requested additional information on the following topic:
DEP remains committed to continuing work on the Susquehanna River, and has created a story map detailing water quality concerns and the extensive work being conducted on the river. More information can also be viewed on DEP’s Susquehanna River Updates page. This extensive work has led to Aquatic Life Use assessment determinations on major portions of the Susquehanna River and Juniata River in the 2018 Integrated Report. Detailed information can be found in the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers Assessment Report, linked below. Use the map to explore the sections of the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers that have been assessed for the 2018 Integrated Report.
In cooperation with DEP, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) created a Susquehanna River Smallmouth Bass Update for this Integrated Report. Recent research has significantly advanced our understanding of possible causes of the Smallmouth Bass population decline and disease prevalence observed in parts of the Susquehanna River basin starting in 2005. Fortunately, in recent years PFBC has observed an increase in recruitment in the basin, largely attributable to lower disease prevalence of juvenile Smallmouth Bass, which has increased overall abundance of Smallmouth Bass and improved the age structure of the population. These events have led PFBC to implement regulatory changes and update resource management techniques for Smallmouth Bass in the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers.
The number of stream miles assessed, and the attainment/impairment status of each stream, varies by protected use. All wadeable streams in Pennsylvania have been assessed at least once for Aquatic Life Use. DEP is currently conducting the second round of Aquatic Life Use assessments on wadeable streams. DEP continues to work towards the goal of 100% assessment of all waterbodies in the state for all protected uses. Click on the charts to see the leading sources and causes of use impairment for streams across Pennsylvania.
Macroinvertebrates currently serve as the primary data source for Aquatic Life Use assessments of streams in Pennsylvania. Thousands of macroinvertebrate samples have been collected from streams across the state over the past two decades. Click on the link below to learn more about DEP’s massive macroinvertebrate dataset and how it is used to measure water quality in Pennsylvania streams.
As part of Section 305(b) reporting, Section 314 of the CWA requires states to report on the status of publicly owned lakes. After the CWA was established, EPA assessment, listing, and reporting guidance documents added the term “significant” to what types of lakes were to be assessed. DEP’s definition of a significant publicly owned lake is a waterbody with public access and a hydraulic residence time of 14 days or more. To meet this reporting goal, DEP employs several lake assessment methods and uses those methods to create assessment determinations for various uses. Explore the chart to see the current assessment status of uses on significant publicly owned lakes.
DEP, along with its partners, assesses other lakes that are not considered publicly owned or significant. Currently, 481 lakes totaling 318,051 acres have assessments for at least one of four uses. Please visit the Integrated Report Viewer to explore the assessment status of significant publicly owned lakes and these additional lakes.
As part of the Section 305(b) reporting, Section 314 requires states to report the trophic status of significant publicly owned lakes. DEP bases overall lake trophic status on average seasonal values of phosphorus, Secchi depth, and chlorophyll-a. These values are used to calculate the Carlson’s Trophic State Index (TSI) for each parameter. TSI scores of 40 and below indicate oligotrophic (not productive) conditions, scores between 40 and 50 indicate mesotrophic (moderately productive) conditions, scores between 50 and 65 indicate eutrophic (productive) conditions, and scores greater than 65 indicate hypereutrophic (excessively productive) conditions.
Click on the map below to see trophic status of each significant publicly owned lake.
Groundwater monitoring efforts in Pennsylvania are displayed in the Status of Statewide and Legacy Groundwater Quality Monitoring Programs. The Legacy Ambient and Fixed Station Network Groundwater Quality Monitoring Program began in 1985 to characterize general background and assess changes in groundwater quality within the 478 groundwater basins identified in the state. Because of resource constraints, monitoring efforts have been limited since the late 1990s and only ~12% of the state has been monitored. Under a joint funding agreement with DEP in 2005, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) compiled electronically available groundwater quality data to help point out data gaps and guide future monitoring efforts. Over 24,000 wells from 14 different agencies/programs were included in the project. For more information and to access the full report, please visit the USGS reports webpage.
A new project was initiated in 2014 to sample at select stations throughout the state on a regular basis. This effort is referred to as the “Expanded” (or “Statewide”) Fixed Station Groundwater Quality Monitoring Network to distinguish it from the original “Legacy” effort. From this information, DEP has begun to better understand the status of groundwater quality in Pennsylvania. Use the map to see the status of select water quality parameters in Pennsylvania’s groundwater from the new, expanded/statewide network.
DEP previously identified and prioritized sources of groundwater contamination based on regional office input for earlier versions of this report. The information was reviewed and updated in the Sources of Groundwater Contamination and Prioritization Document.
DEP has a series of programs in place to control sources of water quality impacts. Click on each program to see an overview of how the program protects water quality, how much the program invests in protecting water, and to visit important links related to that program.
DEP also has a series of programs in place to restore water quality. Primary funding sources come from the grant issued under Section 319 of the CWA ($1,000,000 annually) and Pennsylvania's Growing Greener funds ($3,000,000 annually). Click on each program to see an overview of how the program restores water quality and to visit that program’s website.
DEP has sentinel monitoring stations throughout Pennsylvania that are specifically designed to record trend data. This monitoring program is called the Water Quality Network (WQN). More information on these stations can be found on DEP’s WQN mapping application. From the data collected at these stations, trend reports are developed like the one the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) creates for the Chesapeake Bay. A statewide trend report for the 2018 dataset can be viewed below:
As technology and data analyses advance, more resources are being developed to view DEP’s trend data. For example, USGS has created a national dataset of trends that can be viewed and downloaded. This allows DEP to show data in new and meaningful ways for this Integrated Report. In the map, water quality parameters are displayed as yields (pounds per acre) through time. Displaying data as pounds per acre allows sites to be compared to each other, regardless of waterbody size. This dataset is also available in tabular format.
DEP manages and tracks aquatic resource restoration efforts throughout Pennsylvania. Two major aquatic resource restoration efforts include stream restoration projects and wetland replacements. The maps reflect the current data DEP has access to through permit tracking systems. These and other datasets are reported through DEP’s GIS Open Data Portal.
DEP also partners with outside organizations to restore water quality in lakes. Click below to see the current lake restoration efforts.
DEP documents the restoration of waters through a delisting process that is approved by EPA. DEP delistings can consist of removal of one or more causes of impairment, full restoration of water quality standards, or even corrections in previous assessment determinations/delineations. Click below to see DEP’s impairment delistings for the 2018 Integrated Report.
Overall, restoring waters to the point they can be removed from the impaired categories (4a, 4b, 4c, 5, and 5alt) requires a tremendous amount of resources, dedication, and strong partnerships. Some of DEP’s greatest successes have come from treating abandoned mine drainage, which makes up the majority of restored waters to date. Click on the map to see all waters that have been restored to water quality standards.
Public participation for this Integrated Report will be from April 20th, 2019 to June 4th, 2019. DEP encourages the public to provide comments during this period. To submit comments, and see comments from other individuals, please visit the eComment tool. The links to view and comment on the Integrated Report will be made available in the “Open Comment Periods” section at the top of the eComment website during the public comment period. Written comments can also be mailed to Department of Environmental Protection, Policy Office, Rachel Carson State Office Building, P.O. Box 2063, Harrisburg, PA 17105. DEP suggests that comments be organized using the main headings above (e.g., Introduction, Section 303(d), Section 305(b), etc.), or by using the subheadings to the left of the screen and titled in BLUE on each slide (e.g., Home, Mission, Purpose, etc.). Simply hover over the gray circles to the left of the screen to see all subheadings and navigate to them at any point. Persons in need of accommodations as provided for in the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 should contact DEP’s Water Quality Division at 717-787-9637 or through the Pennsylvania AT&T Relay Service at 800-654-5984 (TTD) to discuss how DEP may accommodate their needs.
DEP developed an electronic notification system for the public to use to stay up-to-date with many types of environmental topics. This tool is called eNOTICE and you may register to receive free notifications of important actions DEP takes. It’s easy. Go here to register to receive notices that are important to you!
DEP publishes a biweekly newsletter that features information about hot topics, recent actions, regulatory updates, webinars and upcoming events. To subscribe to this free newsletter, click here.
For questions or assistance please contact the Water Quality Division at 717-787-9637 or send an email to RA-WQAssessments@pa.gov.
After the public comment period, DEP compiles and responds to the comments provided. The comment/response document is closed during the public participation period (April 20th, 2019 to June 4th, 2019). It will be available shortly after the comment period. Click the link below to view the comment/response document.
Please visit other DEP websites to learn more about how DEP protects water quality and how the public can get involved.
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