General FAQ

What are the different Alabama Water Use Classifications?

There are currently 7 major Water Use Classifications in Alabama:

(1) OUTSTANDING ALABAMA WATER
(a) Best usage of waters: activities consistent with the natural characteristics of the waters.
(b) Conditions related to best usage:
1. High quality waters that constitute an outstanding Alabama resource, such as waters of state parks and wildlife refuges and waters of exceptional recreational or ecological significance, may be considered for classification as an Outstanding Alabama Water (OAW).

(2) PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY
(a) Best usage of waters: source of water supply for drinking or food-processing purposes.
(b) Conditions related to best usage: the waters, if subjected to treatment approved by the Department equal to coagulation, sedimentation, filtration and disinfection, with additional treatment if necessary to remove naturally present impurities, and which meet the requirements of the Department, will be considered safe for drinking or food-processing purposes.
(c) Other usage of waters: it is recognized that the waters may be used for incidental water contact and recreation during June through September, except that water contact is strongly discouraged in the vicinity of discharges or other conditions beyond the control of the Department or the Alabama Department of Public Health.

(3) SWIMMING AND OTHER WHOLE BODY WATER-CONTACT SPORTS
(a) Best usage of waters: swimming and other whole body water-contact sports.
(b) Conditions related to best usage: the waters, under proper sanitary supervision by the controlling health authorities, will meet accepted standards of water quality for outdoor swimming places and will be considered satisfactory for swimming and other whole body water-contact sports. The quality of waters will also be suitable for the propagation of fish, wildlife and aquatic life. The quality of salt waters and estuarine waters to which this classification is assigned will be suitable for the propagation and harvesting of shrimp and crabs.

(4) SHELLFISH HARVESTING
(a) Best usage of waters: propagation and harvesting of shellfish for sale or use as a food product.
(b) Conditions related to best usage: waters will meet the sanitary and bacteriological standards included in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program Model Ordinance, 1999, Chapter IV, published by the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the requirements of the State Department of Public Health. The waters will also be of a quality suitable for the propagation of fish and other aquatic life, including shrimp and crabs.
(c) Other usage of waters: it is recognized that the waters may be used for incidental water contact and recreation during June through September, except that water contact is strongly discouraged in the vicinity of discharges or other conditions beyond the control of the Department or the Alabama Department of Public Health.
(d) Conditions related to other usage: the waters, under proper sanitary supervision by the controlling health authorities, will meet accepted standards of water quality for outdoor swimming places and will be considered satisfactory for swimming and other whole body water-contact sports.

(5) FISH AND WILDLIFE
(a) Best usage of waters: fishing, propagation of fish, aquatic life, and wildlife, and any other usage except for swimming and water-contact sports or as a source of water supply for drinking or food-processing purposes.
(b) Conditions related to best usage: the waters will be suitable for fish, aquatic life and wildlife propagation. The quality of salt and estuarine waters to which this classification is assigned will also be suitable for the propagation of shrimp and crabs.
(c) Other usage of waters: it is recognized that the waters may be used for incidental water contact and recreation during June through September, except that water contact is strongly discouraged in the vicinity of discharges or other conditions beyond the control of the Department or the Alabama Department of Public Health.
(d) Conditions related to other usage: the waters, under proper sanitary supervision by the controlling health authorities, will meet accepted standards of water quality for outdoor swimming places and will be considered satisfactory for swimming and other whole body water-contact sports.

(6) LIMITED WARMWATER FISHERY
(a) The provisions of the Fish and Wildlife water use classification at Rule 335-6-10-.09(5) shall apply to the Limited Warmwater Fishery water use classification, except as noted below. Unless alternative criteria for a given parameter are provided in paragraph (e) below, the applicable Fish and Wildlife criteria at paragraph 10-.09(5)(e) shall apply year-round. At the time the Department proposes to assign the Limited Warmwater Fishery classification to a specific waterbody, the Department may apply criteria from other classifications within this chapter if necessary to protect a documented, legitimate existing use.
(b) Best usage of waters (May through November): agricultural irrigation, livestock watering, industrial cooling and process water supplies, and any other usage, except fishing, bathing, recreational activities, including water-contact sports, or as a source of water supply for drinking or food-processing purposes.
(c) Conditions related to best usage (May through November):
1. The waters will be suitable for agricultural irrigation, livestock watering, and industrial cooling waters. The waters will be usable after special treatment, as may be needed under each particular circumstance, for industrial process water supplies. The waters will also be suitable for other uses for which waters of lower quality will be satisfactory.
2. This category includes watercourses in which natural flow is intermittent, or under certain conditions non-existent, and which may receive treated wastes from existing municipalities and industries. In such instances, recognition is given to the lack of opportunity for mixture of the treated wastes with the receiving stream for purposes of compliance. It is also understood in considering waters for this classification that urban runoff or natural conditions may impact any waters so classified.

(7) AGRICULTURAL AND INDUSTRIAL WATER SUPPLY
(a) Best usage of waters: agricultural irrigation, livestock watering, industrial cooling and process water supplies, and any other usage, except fishing, bathing, recreational activities, including water-contact sports, or as a source of water supply for drinking or food-processing purposes.
(b) Conditions related to best usage:
(i) The waters, except for natural impurities which may be present therein, will be suitable for agricultural irrigation, livestock watering, industrial cooling waters, and fish survival. The waters will be usable after special treatment, as may be needed under each particular circumstance, for industrial process water supplies. The waters will also be suitable for other uses for which waters of lower quality will be satisfactory.
(ii) This category includes watercourses in which natural flow is intermittent and non-existent during droughts and which may, of necessity, receive treated wastes from existing municipalities and industries, both now and in the future. In such instances, recognition must be given to the lack of opportunity for mixture of the treated wastes with the receiving stream for purposes of compliance. It is also understood in considering waters for this classification that urban runoff or natural conditions may impact any waters so classified.