EPA's recommended aquatic life ambient water quality criteria for toxics are levels of a pollutant or other measurable parameter that allows for protection of aquatic life in our nation's waters. Water quality criteria can be numeric (e.g., the maximum pollutant concentration levels permitted in a water body) or narrative (e.g., a criteria that describes the desired conditions of a water body being "free from" certain negative conditions). States, territories and authorized tribes typically adopt both numeric and narrative criteria. These aquatic life criteria are developed under Section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act.
National water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic organisms and their uses: