What’s next for water quality?

May 6, 2021

In 2015, Montana became a national leader when it adopted numeric nutrient standards to protect water quality. Environmental groups celebrated the move, saying the implementation of clear, consistent, science-based limits for nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus would help the state protect the cold, clean water that’s the lifeblood of Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy.

It was also a move the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had been working toward for nearly two decades. The EPA has long said that numeric nutrient standards are important tools for regulators to prevent rivers, streams, lakes and gulfs from the kind of nutrient loading that leads to harmful algal blooms, fish kills, oxygen-starved “dead” zones, and health concerns related to impaired drinking water and increased exposure to toxic microbes. An increasing number of states followed the EPA’s direction and switched to numeric standards.

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