State of New Mexico > Environment Department > Surface Water Quality Bureau

Surface Water Quality Bureau
Water Quality Standards

New Mexico's Water Quality Standards (WQS) define water quality goals by designating uses for rivers, streams, lakes and other surface waters, setting criteria to protect those uses, and establishing provisions to preserve water quality.

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Dry Cimarron at Jesus Mesa

New Mexico’s Water Quality Standards, codified at 20.6.4 NMAC, define water quality goals by designating uses for rivers, streams, lakes and other surface waters, setting criteria to protect those uses, and establishing antidegradation provisions to preserve water quality. The Standards are adopted by the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC), then approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).


Bulleted item US EPA-Approved Standards - Effective June 5, 2013

The current standards incorporate the 2009 triennial review, 2010 Outstanding National Resource Waters designations, 2012 Santa Fe River and Galisteo Watershed Amendments and the 2012 Lower Dry Cimarron River and Lakes amendments.  These standards are effective for CWA purposes as of June 5, 2013. 

Kris Pintado
Standards Coordinator
(505) 827-2822

US EPA Decisions on Standards

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June 5. 2013


April 11, 2013


JANUARY 30, 2013


NOVEMBER 20, 2012


JUNE 18, 2012


APRIL 30, 2012


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UAA for 18 Unclassified Non-Perennial Watercourses with NPDES Permitted Facilities

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EPA Technical Approval - January 30, 2013
Bulleted item UAA for Four Ephemeral Waters in Southern New Mexico
Bulleted item EPA Technical Approval - December 19, 2013

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The Air-Water Temperature Correlation is a tool for identifying appropriate stream classifications and attainable aquatic life use subcategories based on the relationship of air temperature to water temperature.

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The study concludes that a filter of 10 µm pore size minimizes mineral-phase aluminum without restricting amorphous or colloidal phases. It recommends that if the turbidity of a sample is less than 30 NTU, no filtration is needed to minimize mineral phases, and that samples be filtered with capsule (disposable in-line capsule) filters, and not filtered with paper filters that are designed for use in plate or funnel-type filter holders.

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On November 30, 2010, the WQCC approved a petition designating perennial streams and lakes as well as identified wetlands in U.S. Forest Service wilderness areas as ONRWs. The newly designated waters and associated changes to the state’s Antidegradation Policy are amendments to the water quality standards and are effective for state purposes as of January 14, 2011. The WQCC’s action also amended the Antidegradation Policy Implementation Procedure applicable to point source discharges, and approved a new implementation document, Guidance for Nonpoint Source Discharges in ONRWs. EPA approval of the revised standards is pending.  The Rio Santa Barbara and the waters of the Valle Vidal were previously designated as ONRWs. See the Outstanding Waters page for additional information.

Wilderness ONRWs and Antidegradation Amendments, January 14, 2011

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Final and DRAFT Use Attainability Analyses

Bulleted item US EPA-Approved Lower Dry Cimarron & Lakes Amendments

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New Mexico held its most recent Triennial Review hearing Dec. 8-11, 2009. Based on the hearing record, the WQCC adopted numerous amendments and issued a Statement of Reasons explaining the amendments in October 2010. In a letter and Record of Decision dated April 18, 2011, EPA approved most of the provisions.   In a letter and Record of Decision Addendum dated April 30, 2012, US EPA approved the remaining provisions except the hardness-based equation for aluminum in waters with pH below 6.5, and took no action on provision.  See the Triennial Review site for more information.

2009 Triennial Review Amendments, December 1, 2010

Bulleted item US EPA Approval Letter June 18, 2012  
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Bulleted item US EPA Approval Letter April 18, 2011  
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Bulleted item Valle Vidal ONRW Designation Amendments, February 16, 2006

Bulleted item Statement of Reasons for ONRW Designation  
Bulleted item EPA Approval, June 27, 2006  
Bulleted item 2005 Triennial Review:

Bulleted item Statement of Reasons for Triennial Review
Bulleted item EPA Approval Letter, December 29, 2006
Bulleted item EPA's Record of Decision, December 29, 2006
Bulleted item Use Attainability Analysis for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)
Bulleted item EPA Approval for LANL Segments 126 and 128, August 31, 2007

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Other Important Links...

New Mexico Water Quality Act [NMSA 74-6-1 et seq.]

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Section 303:  Water Quality Standards & Implementation Plans
Bulleted item 40 CFR 130 - Water Quality Planning and Management Regulation
Bulleted item 40 CFR 131 - Water Quality Standards Regulation
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New Mexico’s Standards do not apply to waters on Native American lands. Tribes and pueblos develop and implement their own water quality standards. As with states, tribal standards are approved by the US EPA. Approximately half of New Mexico’s tribes and pueblos have US EPA-approved standards. For more information or to review any of the available online tribal and pueblo standards in New Mexico please click here.

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