Section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1314(a)), requires EPA to publish and periodically update water quality criteria. These criteria are to reflect the latest scientific knowledge on the identifiable effects of pollutants on public health and welfare, aquatic life, and recreation. This report presents water quality criteria for benzene. It presents concentration criteria for the protection of fresh water and saltwater aquatic life. It presents 'safe' concentrations for humans, and in the case of suspect or proven carcinogens, gives various levels of incremental cancer risk. A section 304(a) water quality criterion is a qualitative or quantitative estimate of the concentration of a water constituent or pollutant in ambient waters which, when not exceeded, will ensure a water quality sufficient to protect a specified water use. Under the Act a criterion is a scientific entity, based solely on data and scientific judgment. It does not reflect considerations of economic or technological feasibility nor is it a water quality standard and in itself has no regulatory effect.