Water Quality Planning Bureau
MISSION: to assure that water quality is maintained and improved so that state waters can support all their beneficial uses.
GOAL: to work with the public, agencies, and other interests to evaluate, maintain, and improve the quality of state waters.
DEQ’s Water Quality Planning Bureau (WQPB) manages the Montana Nonpoint Source (NPS) Management Program. WQPB’s mission is accomplished through an integrated approach based on water quality standards development, monitoring and assessment, and development and implementation of water quality improvement plans and TMDLs. The following sections contribute to our mission
Develops water quality criteria to identify the level of water quality necessary to protect the beneficial uses of a stream, river, or lake, as well as, the state’s groundwater resources. Examples of beneficial uses include drinking water, recreation, and fish and aquatic life. The NPS program seeks to protect and restore these beneficial uses. A complete review of standards occurs every three years, but changes to the standards can occur at any time.
Monitors water quality conditions and trends statewide and assesses sources and severity of pollution problems by (a) operating statewide water quality monitoring networks, (b) conducting inventories of pollution sources, and (c) identifying impaired waterbodies. This monitoring and assessment provides the basis for Montana’s Integrated Report, which addresses 75-5-702 of the Montana Water Quality Act and sections 305(b) and 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act.
Develops Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for impaired waters on Montana’s 303(d) list. A TMDL refers to the maximum amount of a pollutant, from both point and non-point sources that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards. A TMDL is sometimes expressed as a reduction in pollutant loading that will result in meeting water quality standards. The term TMDL is also used to refer to the written document containing the TMDLs. TMDL documents in Montana typically include the framework for a restoration strategy, including implementation and monitoring recommendations. EPA-approved TMDL documents can be used by watershed groups and conservation districts to develop watershed restoration plans.
Works to protect and restore water quality from the effects of nonpoint source (NPS) pollution. NPS pollution is the state’s largest source of water quality impairment. NPS pollution can be generated by most land-use activities and occurs when water moves over and through the ground, moving sediments, nutrients, metals, pesticides, and salts into wetlands, groundwater, creeks, rivers, and lakes. WPS works with volunteers, watershed groups, conservation districts, educational institutions, and state and federal agencies to implement Montana’s Nonpoint Source Program (Section 319 of the Clean Water Act). Section 319 grants provide funding for on-the ground projects, monitoring, and NPS education and outreach.
The IMTS section provides support for bureau data and information management systems, IT project management, and water quality/watershed modeling. These services relate primarily to the agency’s Nonpoint Source Program, but also assist all water quality-related activities through support of water quality standards development and management of environmental metric data, water quality assessments, bibliographic records, and bureau business data. IMTS also manages the state’s biennial water quality Integrated Report, which contains the list of impaired waters in need of TMDLs, or 303(d) list, attainment status of all state waters assessed, and status of state-managed water quality programs. Public access to the bureau’s data and information is provided via the internet at its Clean Water Act Information Center (CWAIC), Library Internet Search Application (LISA), and EPA’s water quality Data Warehouse (STORET/WQX).
Supports the NPS Program and bureau and its contractors by describing the management and technical procedures that will assure the quality of environmental information used to support decisions. This is referred to as a "quality system." It provides the bureau with a practical framework for managing the quality of activities, resulting in environmental determinations and controls.