An Introduction to the Basin Plan

The Water Quality Control Plan for the North Coast Region (Basin Plan) contains the regulations adopted by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) to control the discharge of waste and other controllable factors affecting the quality of waters of the state within the boundaries of the North Coast Region. Porter-Cologne defines “Waters of the state” to mean any surface water or groundwater, including saline waters, within the boundaries of the state. The Basin Plan, as amended periodically, establishes the beneficial uses of water within the region; the water quality objectives necessary to protect those uses, including an Anti-degradation policy; the prohibitions, policies, and action plans, by which protections are implemented; and the monitoring, which is conducted to ensure attainment of water quality standards.  Under the Clean Water Act, water quality standards include designated uses, water quality criteria, and an Anti-degradation policy.  Porter-Cologne modifies the federal language to refer to designated uses as beneficial uses and water quality criteria as water quality objectives, which includes the State Water Board’s Anti-degradation policy (Resolution 68-16).  Porter-Cologne also requires a program of implementation for water quality protection in California.  A program of implementation includes actions necessary to achieve objectives, a time schedule for the actions to be taken, and monitoring to determine compliance with water quality objectives and protection of beneficial uses of water.

The Basin Plan is adopted by the Regional Water Board and approved by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board), and the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). The United State Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) approves the water quality standards contained in the Basin Plan, as required by the Clean Water Act.

The Basin Plan is used as a regulatory tool by the Regional Water Board. Regional Water Board orders cite the Basin Plan's water quality standards, prohibitions, and other programs of implementation applicable to a particular discharge or category of discharge. The Basin Plan is also used by other agencies in their permitting and resource management activities. Further, it serves as an educational and reference document for dischargers and members of the public.

Chapter 1 provides general information about the Basin Planning program, the North Coast Region, and other similar introductory topics.

Chapter 2 provides a description of the statewide and regional beneficial use categories by which waters in the North Coast Region are defined.  Table 2-1 of the Basin Plan designates beneficial uses on a waterbody-by-waterbody basis.  Of note, the Regional Water Board adopts orders and permits to protect verified, existing beneficial uses of water, whether or not they are listed in Table 2-1.

Chapter 3 describes the purpose and use of water quality objectives (objectives), including the Anti-degradation policy, in establishing requirements in permits and orders to control the discharge of waste and other controllable factors associated with the discharge of waste. Chapter 3 references statewide objectives, for example as described in the Ocean Plan, Bays and Estuaries Plan, and Inland Surface Waters Plan.  It also establishes both numeric and narrative objectives specific to the North Coast Region for both surface waters and groundwaters. 

Chapter 4 describes numerous programs of implementation, by which the Regional Water Board implements water quality objectives and other beneficial use protections. 

Chapter 5 describes the plans and policies of the State Water Board.  The most updated list of the State Water Board’s plans and policies can be found in the Plans and Policies page.

Chapter 6 describes the monitoring activities of the North Coast Region.


How to Access the Basin Plan

We encourage users to access the electronic version of the Basin Plan from the Internet, by going to the Basin Plan Documents page. The Basin Plan can be downloaded and printed directly from the Internet. Users can also explore the Basin Plan and other layers relevant to the North Coast by web application (web app). A Story Map tutorial on using the Basin Plan web app is forthcoming.

 If you require a hardcopy of the Basin Plan be mailed to you, the Regional Water Board can print and mail a copy of the plan, though charges for copying and postage will apply.  To request a copy to be printed for you, please call 707-576-2220 or e-mail

Mailing List

We maintain an email list of persons interested in basin planning issues, including individual basin planning projects.  We encourage those interested in basin planning issues to subscribe to the Basin Planning email list. You may subscribe to as many of the email lists as are of interest to you.

Contact Us

Contact information for specific planning projects are posted on the project web pages. If you have general questions about the content of the Basin Plan or the amendment process, please contact:
Lisa Bernard, Regional Water Board's Program Manager