A method is presented for developing water quality criteria (WQC) for type I narcotic chemicals in general and PAHs in particular. The criteria can be applied to any individual or mixture of narcotic chemicals using only the chemical's octanol-water partition coefficient KOW. It is derived from a database of LC50s comprising 156 chemicals and 33 species, including fish, amphibians, arthropods, mollusks, polychaetes, coelenterates, and protozoans. A target lipid model is proposed that accounts for variations in toxicity due to differing species sensitivities and chemical differences. The model is based on the idea that a target lipid is the site of action in the organism. Further, it is assumed that target lipid has the same lipid-octanol linear free energy relationship for all species. This implies that the slope of the log(LC50)–log(KOW) relationship is the same for all species. However, individual species may have varying target lipid body burdens that cause toxicity. The target lipid LC50 body burdens derived from concentration data in the water only are compared to measured total lipid LC50 body burdens for five species. They are essentially equal, indicating that the target lipid concentration is equal to the total extracted lipid concentration. The precise relationship between partitioning in target lipid and octanol is established. The species-specific body burdens are used to determine the WQC final acute value, i.e., the 95-percentile level of protection. An acute-to-chronic ratio is used to compute the body burden corresponding to the WQC final chronic value, which is the procedure used to derive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency water quality criteria. The criteria are expressed either as dissolved concentrations in the water column or as tissue concentrations.