The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the Water Quality Standards for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe with Reservation lands in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The Tribe submitted its Water Quality Standards to EPA earlier this year for review and an approval determination under the Clean Water Act. The Tribe’s standards will be implemented for all Clean Water Act purposes, including issuing and enforcing discharge permits for Reservation surface waters.
Water Quality Standards are the cornerstone of State and Tribal water quality management programs established under the Clean Water Act. These standards define the goals for specific waterbodies by designating their uses, setting criteria to protect those uses, and establishing provisions such as anti-degradation policies to protect waterbodies from pollutants.
The Ute Mountain Ute received program authority from EPA for Water Quality Standards in 2005, and submitted their standards in 2011. EPA has determined that the Tribe’s standards are consistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act. The approved standards will be used by the Tribe to assess the health of aquatic ecosystems, identify water quality problems, and target and prioritize remediation and restoration projects.
EPA’s approval of the Tribe’s Water Quality Standards is the latest step forward for a tribal water quality program that has been working to protect Reservation waters for over 20 years. The Tribe is currently working collaboratively with surrounding states and federal agencies on a broad range of water quality issues. These include recovery efforts for endangered aquatic species, reducing pollution from mining, irrigated agriculture and livestock, and protecting culturally significant resources.
Out of 46 tribes nationally that have received the authority to establish Water Quality Standards, the Ute Mountain Ute becomes the 37th tribe with EPA-approved standards.
The Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation includes lands in southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah, straddling much of the arid four corners area. Major Reservation waterbodies include the San Juan and Mancos Rivers, and McElmo Creek. The Reservation’s population includes approximately 2,100 enrolled members and its largest community, Towaoc, Colo., serves as the Tribal Government seat. The local economy consists mainly of ranching and farming, oil and gas production, and a tourism trade showcasing western landscapes, natural history and cultural sites.
Sources: US Environmental Protection Agency
The Tribe maintains a copy of its Water Quality Standards on its website: http://www.utemountainuteenvironmental.org/index.cfm/water-quality/surface-water/surface-water-quality-standards/
The Tribal Environmental Program website: http://www.utemountainuteenvironmental.org/
For more information on Water Quality Standards and the Clean Water Act visit: http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/standards/index.cfm