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Triennial Standards Review

Helping improve Wisconsin's surface water quality

Final 2021-2023 TSR workplan now available

The final workplan is available for download.

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 surface 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: Solicit public input to rank topics by priority using an online topic ranking form.

Step 3: Provide a public hearing (webinar) to answer questions about the topics and the prioritization process.

Step 4: Use public input to help prioritize topics and draft a workplan for the next three years.

Step 5: Begin work on the prioritized topics.

Current cycle: 2021-2023

Step 1, 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, Topic Ranking Form and Public Hearing, are now complete.

  • An online topic ranking form was available to the public from October 13 to December 4, 2020. The form allowed the public to weigh in on which topics they felt DNR should focus on in the next three years.
  • An online webinar/hearing was held on Monday, November 16, 2020 to describe the topics under consideration, answer questions and take any comments on which topics attendees feel should be priorities. View the slides here. Comments were also accepted in writing from October 13 to December 4, 2020.

Step 4, Topic Prioritization, is now complete and the final workplan is available.

Using feedback from the ranking form and hearing, as well as from internal staff and technical partners, the top priority items have been selected for our work plan for the next three years. The final workplan is available now [PDF].

Step 5, Work on Priority Topics, is now underway.

Previous Cycles

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