Home > Missions > Engineering and Construction > Environmental Engineering > Water Quality Management

Available Information

Water Quality Management

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is required and committed to adherence to the laws, policies, and regulations that strongly affirm Federal interest in water quality. As you might expect, there are numerous Federal, State, and USACE regulations, manuals, and guidance which exact how to meet these requirements for WQM. Within the District WQM encompasses our five (5) reservoirs, approximately 300 miles of the Mississippi River, and approximately 90 miles of the Illinois and Missouri Rivers. What follows below are the National and Corps' policy regarding WQM:
  It is national policy that the Federal government, in the design, construction, management, operation, and maintenance of its facilities, shall provide leadership in the nationwide effort to protect and enhance the quality of our air, water, and land resources. Federal facilities shall comply with all Federal, State, Tribal, Interstate, and Local requirements in the same manner and extent as other entities. The national antidegradation policy, defined in the Federal water quality management laws, requires:
  • That the existing water quality of waters that constitute an outstanding national resource be maintained and protected;
  • That the existing water quality of high quality waters that supports a diverse, productive, and ecologically sound habitat be maintained and protected unless there is compelling evidence that to do so will cause significant national economic and social harm;
  • In all cases, the existing beneficial uses and the water quality necessary to protect them will be maintained. Existing beneficial uses are defined as those beneficial uses actually attained in a water body on or after November 28, 1975, whether or not they are included in Tribal or State water quality standards (40CFR131.3e).

This national policy is founded on the overall objective established in the Clean Water Act to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters. The thrust of this policy is to protect all existing and future uses including assimilative capacity, aquatic life, water supply, recreation, industrial use, hydropower, etc. Where uses are degraded, it is the national goal to restore those degraded waters.

 It is the Corps' policy to take a leadership role in carrying out the goals and objectives of the national water quality management policy by managing the nation's water resources that are under its control so that they are protected, maintained, and restored. As stewards of project resources, the Corps will not allow degradation of the aquatic resource in accordance with the Federal antidegradation policy. In cases where degradation has occurred, it is the Corps' policy to restore the resource to a biologically productive, diverse, and ecologically robust condition. The Corps management responsibilities extend throughout the area influenced by and influencing the water it manages. Because the management of Corps projects affects environments distant from project property boundaries and is influenced by actions of others also distant from its properties, the Corps must actively pursue a management philosophy committed to partnering with a wide range of resource organizations and interested individuals. It is the Corps policy to develop and implement a holistic, environmentally sound water quality management strategy for each project. This strategy must be developed in concert with other authorized project purposes. However, the environment will be addressed as equal in value and importance to other project purposes when developing or carrying out management strategies. The Corps will, at least, manage its projects in accordance with all applicable Federal, Tribal, and State environmental laws, criteria, and standards. It is the goal of the Corps to responsibly manage its projects to maximize their environmental potential. The four pillars of the Army environmental strategy (conservation, prevention, restoration, and compliance) will help guide the Corps policy for water quality management.


Corps water control projects (dams, local protection, levee systems, and navigation projects) store, regulate, divert, constrict, or convey most of the surface waters in the United States. As water moves through Corps projects, the projects alter the physical, chemical, and biological character of much of that water. Consequently, Corps projects determine or significantly influence the ecological integrity of a large percentage of the aquatic environment in the United States. Corps water control decisions determine or significantly influence whether or not Corps projects have a positive or negative impact on the environmental value and human usefulness of much of the nation's water resources. As stewards of a significant percentage of the nation's aquatic environment, the Corps has a responsibility to preserve, protect, and where necessary restore that portion of the environment altered by Corps projects. The Corps is fully committed to environmentally sound project management and operation. It is the policy of the Corps that the environment be given equal standing, not simply consideration, in all aspects of project management and the operational decision-making process.


The Corps water quality program is committed to holistic watershed ecosystem based resource management. This requires a comprehensive understanding of the interactions of the uses and users of the aquatic environment and the impact of Corps structures and their operation on the aquatic environment. The continued development of ecological management skills within the Corps is essential for the development, protection, and restoration of the resources in its charge. Understanding the physical, chemical, and biological processes allows the Corps the opportunity to operate, maintain, and modify projects in ways that provide for sustainable human uses while protecting, restoring, and conserving the environmental value of the resource. The factors that determine the persistence, resilience, and robustness of ecosystems are often counter-intuitive processes and lack of understanding complicates attempts to manage them.


The water quality program provides one of the greatest opportunities for the Corps to demonstrate its commitment to environmental leadership, conservation, restoration, and stewardship. By planning, designing, constructing, and operating water projects in a manner that achieves project purposes while preserving, protecting, and restoring the ecological integrity of the aquatic resources, the Corps can demonstrate its leadership role in responsible environmental engineering. Environmental success will not be measured by production of single or limited numbers of species, or enhanced recreational opportunities, but by expertise in reestablishing flow regimes, rehabilitating wetlands and riparian areas, managing sediment delivery, controlling the chemical and physical aspects of the aquatic systems, and overall ability to restore a dynamic, self-sustaining aquatic ecosystem. This approach will make a significant contribution toward the achievement of the sustainable development goals of the nation.