Amendment to Designate the Smith River and its Tributaries as an Outstanding National Resource Water (ONRW)


The Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) directed staff in its 2014 Triennial Review of the Water Quality Control Plan for the North Coast Region (Basin Plan) to develop a proposal to designate the Smith River as an Outstanding National Resource Water (ONRW).

Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRWs) are provided the highest level of protection under the federal Clean Water Act's Anti-degradation policy, 40CFR131.12. The federal policy provides for protection of water quality in high-quality waters that constitute an ONRW by prohibiting the lowering of water quality.

ONRWs are often regarded as highest quality waters of the United States. However, ONRW designation also offers special protection for waters that are of exceptional recreational and/or ecological significance. These are waterbodies that are important, unique, or sensitive ecologically, but whose water quality, as measured by the traditional parameters such as dissolved oxygen or pH, may not be particularly high or whose characteristics cannot be adequately described by these parameters (such as wetlands).

California has designated two other waters as ONRWs. They are Mono Lake and Lake Tahoe, both found in the Lahontan Region (Region 6).

Available Documents


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For information, comments, or questions concerning a this basin planning project please contact:

Lisa Bernard

  (Page last updated 8/24/23)