The CWA Framework


The CWA framework starts with the development of WQSs that are authorized by law and established in regulation for all Maryland waters. WQSs establish the water quality goals for all Maryland waters and consist of three components: designated uses, water quality criteria and antidegradation policy. In simple terms, designated uses set the broad goal for a waterbody, the water quality criteria establish the specific water quality conditions that must be met to achieve that goal, and antidegradation policy maintains and protects existing water quality.

When planning growth and development, local jurisdictions should first identify the WQSs in those planning areas to ensure they will continue to be met as the land use plan is implemented, i.e., post development. For example, land use plan designations that allow for major development projects that significantly increase impervious surfaces in Use III watersheds with cold water streams or in high quality watersheds may warrant additional land use requirements and protections based on principles of avoidance and minimization of impacts to prevent degradation. Doing so will help MDE, and delegated local authorities, avoid having to implement regulatory mechanisms authorized by the CWA that will likely create conflicts and delay the development process. More information and MDE contacts for WQS in your jurisdiction is available on MDE’s webpage HERE.

Consult Maryland’s map of designated uses HERE and enter the location of planned development in the search bar. Then click on the nearest stream or waterbody, which will bring up a blue box that you can scroll through to identify the water’s Use Class. Once you have identified the applicable designated use(s) in your planned growth area, proceed to this webpage HERE and HERE​​ to reference in the WRE the applicable water quality that must be attained in your planned growth area.

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