Special Protection Waters

Wayne County Stream

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) classifies streams based on their water quality. Among the classifications are Exceptional Value (EV), High Quality (HQ) and Warm Water Fisheries (WWF). EV is the highest or top tier classification/level of protection and HQ is the next step down. The Clean Water Act requires states to have protective uses for their surface waters. Once a protective use is established for a surface water, that use must be maintained and the surface water is not permitted to degrade. This DEP policy of anti-degradation, which originated from the U.S Department of the Interior and the Clean Water Act, promotes the maintenance and protection of existing water quality in the State. The level of classification can impact the permit process for newly proposed development in these watersheds.

Special Protection Waters

Currently, Special Protection Waters comprise approximately 94% of Wayne County. A total of 89.46% of waters are classified as High Quality (HQ) and some 4.64% are classified as Exceptional Value (EV). To view a map which illustrates the area of Wayne County that is comprised of Special Protection Waters (PDF).


The classification or level of protection can increase due to routine periodic inspections or through petition. To qualify for a higher level of protection, the surface water must meet specific criteria. Those standards and the regulations that pertain to special protection waters are contained in The Pennsylvania Code - Chapter 93 “Water Quality Standards”.

Further Reading

Also, if you would like to read more on the topic of surface water protection and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s antidegradation policy, the PA DEP produced a guidance document that discusses these topics in more depth.  View the Water Quality Implementation Guidance (PDF) for further information.