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DEP 101: Surface Water Quality Standards

Water quality standards define the protection goals for surface waters by establishing designated uses (the public and aquatic life uses of the waterbodies), criteria by which to measure attainment of those uses and other policies to protect waterbodies from the impact of pollutants.

Florida has six surface water classifications reflecting designated uses:

  • Class I (Potable Water Supplies)
  • Class II (Shellfish Propagation or Harvesting)
  • Class III (Fish Consumption; Recreation, Propagation and Maintenance of a Healthy, Well-Balanced Population of Fish and Wildlife)
  • Class III-Limited (Fish Consumption; Recreation or Limited Recreation; and/or Propagation and Maintenance of a Limited Population of Fish and Wildlife)
  • Class IV (Agricultural Water Supplies)
  • Class V (Navigation, Utility and Industrial Use)

All waters in Florida over which the state has jurisdiction fall into one of the six classifications, with most designated Class III. (Waters not classified otherwise fall into Class III.) In general, Class I waters have the most stringent water quality protections, while Class V waters would have the least stringent. However, there are no Class V waters in Florida.

Most water quality criteria have scientifically derived numeric values designed to protect human health and aquatic life. Some water quality criteria are set narratively to describe and limit potential pollutant impacts.

Site-specific alternative criteria may be established in certain waterbodies to replace statewide default criteria when the default criteria are demonstrated to be insufficiently protective or otherwise inappropriate.

Learn more about Florida’s surface water quality standards program.

Last Modified:
March 20, 2023 - 10:35am

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