Find Designated Uses for Waters of the State

Designated uses have sometimes been called “beneficial uses” and include public water supply, protection for fish, shellfish, and wildlife, as well as recreational, agricultural, industrial, navigational and aesthetic purposes. Water quality criteria designed to protect the designated uses and are used to assess the general health of Washington surface waters and set permit limits. Marine and fresh waters have designated uses assigned in a “use-based” format, where individual waterbodies are assigned individual uses.

To find the designated uses for marine waterbodies refer to WAC 173-201A-610 and 612. For marine aquatic life uses see map (PDF). For marine criteria refer to WAC 173-201A-210, 240, and 260.

Finding designated uses and criteria for rivers and streams is slightly more complex because of the large number of salmonid species and their complex freshwater spawning cycles. To find the designated use(s) for rivers and streams refer to WAC 173-201A-600 and 602 (Table 602) of the water quality standards. Table 602 is an extensive listing of waterbodies and the uses assigned to those waterbodies. Section 600 outlines default uses for those waterbodies not specifically named in Table 602.

Tips for Using Table 602 (Fresh water designated uses)

For each named waterbody, Table 602 lists the designated aquatic life uses with the most stringent criteria. Example: char spawning/rearing has a more stringent and protective temperature criteria than salmonid spawning/rearing. If both uses are designated or could exist in the waterbody, char spawning/rearing will be designated use and criteria will override.

Table 602 lists specific waterbodies, organized by Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) and the uses assigned to those waters. Many waters are not specifically named. Those waterbodies not specially named have their designated uses assigned in WAC 173-201A-600. Important: The designated use spawning, rearing and migration use is called spawning/rearing at the top of table 602 pages.

The footnotes in Table 602 are special conditions for some water bodies. The special conditions are criteria for parameters applied to specific water bodies; these override the criteria in Table 602. Note: If a listing has a footnote the special conditions only applies to those waters with that footnote number. If there is a special condition at the bottom of a WRIA (Water Resource Inventory Area) and there is no footnote reference, that special condition applies to all waters in the WRIA.

Once the uses and criteria are found, the Supplemental Spawning and Incubation map publication is then referred to for possible additional temperature criteria. If the temperature criteria in the Supplemental Spawning publication is colder than any other criteria, this will be the overriding criteria to apply. To access additional spawning and incubation temperature criteria for salmon, trout, and char spawning timeframes refer to the Supplemental Spawning and Incubation publication (Ecology publication 06-10-038).

Table 600 (Key to Table 602)

Please also refer to WAC 173-201A-200(1) for general language and requirements for aquatic life protection.

[Statutory Authority: Chapters 90.48 and 90.54 RCW. 03-14-129 (Order 02-14), § 173-201A-600, filed 7/1/03, effective 8/1/03.]

Abbreviation General Description

Aquatic Life Uses (see WAC 173-201A-200)(1):

Char Spawning/Rearing Char spawning and rearing. The key identifying characteristics of this use are spawning or early juvenile rearing by native char (bull trout and Dolly Varden), or use by other aquatic species similarly dependent on such cold water. Other common characteristic aquatic life uses for waters in this category include summer foraging and migration of native char; and spawning, rearing, and migration by other salmonid species.
Core Summer Habitat Core summer salmonid habitat. The key identifying characteristics of this use are summer (June 15 – September 15) salmonid spawning or emergence, or adult holding; use as important summer rearing habitat by one or more salmonids; or foraging by adult and sub-adult native char. Other common characteristic aquatic life uses for waters in this category include spawning outside of the summer season, rearing, and migration by salmonids.
Spawning/Rearing Salmonid spawning, rearing, and migration. The key identifying characteristic of this use is salmon or trout spawning and emergence that only occurs outside of the summer season (September 16 - June 14). Other common characteristic aquatic life uses for waters in this category include rearing and migration by salmonids.
Rearing/Migration Only Salmonid rearing and migration only. The key identifying characteristic of this use is use only for rearing or migration by salmonids (not used for spawning).
Redband Trout Non-anadromous interior redband trout. For the protection of waters where the only trout species is a non-anadromous form of self-reproducing interior redband trout (O. mykis), and other associated aquatic life.
Warm Water Species Indigenous warm water species. For the protection of waters where the dominant species under natural conditions would be temperature tolerant indigenous nonsalmonid species. Examples include dace, redside shiner, chiselmouth, sucker, and northern pikeminnow.

Recreational Uses: (see WAC 173-201A-200)(2))

Extraordinary Primary Cont. Extraordinary quality primary contact waters. Waters providing extraordinary protection against waterborne disease or that serve as tributaries to extraordinary quality shellfish harvesting areas.
Primary Cont. Primary contact recreation.
Secondary Cont. Secondary contact recreation.

Water Supply Uses: (see WAC 173-201A-200)(3))

Domestic Water Domestic water supply.
Industrial Water Industrial water supply.
Agricultural Water Agricultural water supply.
Stock Water Stock watering.

Miscellaneous Uses: (see WAC 173-201A-200)(4))

Wildlife Habitat Wildlife habitat.
Harvesting Fish harvesting.
Commerce/Navigation Commerce and navigation.
Boating Boating.
Aesthetics Aesthetic values.


Please be sure to refer to the full version of the standards for additional information on each specific water quality criterion:

Code Reviser version
Easy to read version
Waters Requiring Supplemental Spawning and Incubation Protection for Salmonid Species (Ecology publication)


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Last updated May 2013