Skip to main content

Triennial Standards Review

Helping improve Wisconsin's surface water quality

Public webinar/hearing on October 30, 1:00 PM

Join us for an online webinar and hearing to learn more about the topics under consideration for this year’s triennial standards review, and how you can take an online survey to provide your opinions on which topics should be our priorities for the upcoming three years.

Zoom link:; Meeting ID: 974 8804 2457; or phone-in by dialing: 1-312-626-6799.

Online survey will be available here starting October 13.

Every three years, the DNR reviews Wisconsin's water quality standards or related guidance to determine which standards need development or revision, as required by the federal Clean Water Act. This comprehensive evaluation, called the Triennial Standards Review (TSR) [PDF], is an essential process to keep Wisconsin's waters swimmable, fishable and drinkable.

This review helps DNR staff focus efforts to integrate the latest science, technology and federal requirements into how the state regulates water quality. In addition, the review assists the staff with work-planning and identifying needed actions for moving projects forward. Water quality standards act as guidelines for setting an appropriate level of protection for Wisconsin's lakes, rivers and streams.

Components of water quality standards reviewed as part of the Triennial Standards Review include the following:

  • designated uses – goals and expectations established for each waterbody
  • water quality criteria – narrative and numeric benchmarks established to protect the designated uses
  • antidegradation - policy or procedure established to protect high-quality waters
  • water quality variances – short-term changes to permit limits or water quality standards when criteria are unattainable.

Triennial review process

Diagram of the triennial review process

Step 1: Gather topic suggestions related to water quality standards from internal staff, external partners and the general public. Compile a list of relevant topics.

Step 2: Provide a public hearing (webinar) to answer questions about the topics and the prioritization process.

Step 3: Distribute an online survey to rank topics by priority.

Step 4: Prioritize topics based on survey responses and draft a workplan for the next three years.

Step 5: Begin work on the prioritized topics.

Upcoming cycle: 2021-2023

Step 1 of the new cycle, Topic Suggestions, is now complete.

To kick off the cycle, we put a call out for suggestions of topics related to surface water quality standards that may need review or development in the upcoming three years. This helped us prepare the list of topics for prioritization in step 2.

Steps 2 and 3 are now underway: Public Hearing and Topic Prioritization Survey.

  • An online survey will be available to the public here from October 13 to November 11. The survey will allow the public to weigh in on which topics they feel DNR should focus on in the next three years.
  • An online webinar/hearing will be held on Friday, October 30 at 1PM to describe the topics under consideration, answer questions about the survey, and take any comments on which topics attendees feel should be priorities. Comments will be accepted via the survey or in writing from October 13 to November 11.

Under Step 4, the topics on the list will be prioritized.

Using feedback from the survey and hearing, as well as from internal staff and technical partners, the top priority items will be selected for our work plan for the next three years.

To receive notice of and participate in the upcoming cycle steps, subscribe to the "Water quality standards and assessments" email list.

Previous cycles

Information about previous cycles is available below. Work on topics begun in previous cycles will continue until work is completed.