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Antidegradation and Outstanding Resource Waters


DEQ's antidegradation policy (OAR 340-041-0004) is designed to protect Oregon waters from further degradation from new or increased sources of pollution and protects, maintains, and enhances surface water quality to protect existing beneficial uses. Details on how DEQ implements the policy are included in the Antidegradation Policy Implementation Internal Management Directive (March 2001) and the memos are listed under Additional Resources below. 

On Aug. 8, 2013, DEQ received a letter of review from EPA on Oregon's antidegradation implementation methods as described in the internal guidance document above. DEQ developed a series of memos clarifying implementation procedures to address issues raised in EPA's review.

Additional resources

Outstanding Resource Waters of Oregon

Outstanding Resource Waters are high quality waters that constitute an outstanding state resource due to their extraordinary water quality or ecological values, or where special protection is needed to maintain critical habitat areas. Oregon's ORW policy, part of the state's antidegradation policy, was adopted by the Environmental Quality Commission in 1991 and may be found at OAR 340-041-0004(8) 

On March 12, 2021, the EPA approved the designation of Crater Lake and Waldo Lake and associated wetlands as Outstanding Resource Waters in the state of Oregon.

On Jan. 21, 2021,  the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted to designate Crater Lake and Waldo Lake as Outstanding Resource Waters in the state of Oregon. The designation provides special protections to maintain the exceptional water quality, ecological, cultural and recreation values of these lakes. This is only the second time that the commission has granted this special status to waters in Oregon.

​Additional Resources

In July 2017, the EQC voted to designate the North Fork Smith River and its tributaries as ORWs and to establish policies to protect the water quality and outstanding values of these waters. These are Oregon's first ORWs. DEQ led the rulemaking at EQC's request after the commission granted a petition proposing the designation. EPA approved the ORW designation in October 2017. 

The North Fork Smith River begins in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in southern Oregon and is a federally-designated Wild and Scenic River. Outstanding values of the North Fork Smith River include their exceptional clarity and color, valuable habitat for endangered populations of Coho salmon, several rare wetland plant species and other fish and wildlife and for unique recreational opportunities, particularly for whitewater rafting and kayaking. 

Additional Resources

Outstanding Resource Water nomination process

DEQ is taking comments on the nomination process through September 30, 2023. Comments should be submitted to More details on the nomination process, including information to be included in a nomination and criteria that DEQ will use to determine if a waterbody qualifies for ORW designation, is included in the document below.  DEQ may make modifications to the process in response to public comments.

DEQ is also accepting nominations from members of the public for waters to designate as ORWs. The Water Quality Standards program will evaluate nominated water bodies during its triennial review to determine if an ORW rulemaking will be included in program priorities for the following three years. The next triennial review will begin in 2024. In order to be considered for the next triennial review process, parties should submit initial nominations 3 months prior to the next triennial review.

Fact Sheet: Outstanding Resource Waters Process and Instructions 

Metolius Outstanding Resource Water Petition

On June 27, 2022, Friends of the Metolius and co-petitioner the Northwest Environmental Defense Center submitted a citizen petition to EQC for rulemaking to designate the Metolius River from its headwaters to Monty Campground as an Outstanding Resource Water. On behalf of EQC, DEQ accepted comments from Aug. 1 to Aug. 31, 2022 on whether to deny the petition or initiate rulemaking proceedings. On Sept. 23, 2022, EQC voted to deny the petition. DEQ recommended the petitioners bring the proposal forward as part of the triennial review of Oregon’s water quality standards after consulting with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Deschutes National Forest.


Aron Borok
Water Quality Standards
Toll-free in Oregon 800-452-4011, ext. 5050