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Water: Climate Change and Water

Coastal and Ocean Waters

Coastal and ocean environments are particularly vulnerable to climate change. In addition to the impacts that will be experienced inland, coastal areas will face special challenges. Sea-level rise is already a multifaceted problem that uniquely affects coasts and oceans. Coastal wetlands and estuarine habitats are being inundated or eroded, and many will not be able to sustain themselves as the rate of sea-level rise accelerates. The potential for ocean acidification to damage the marine food chain, shellfish, and coral is another issue unique to the coastal and ocean environment. Coastal regions will also experience saltwater intrusion into ground water aquifers, the threat of rising seas to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and the effects of varying stream flow on estuarine salinity and ecology.

Numerous resources and tools related to coastal and ocean waters are available: explore our resources.

What EPA Is Doing

Climate Ready Estuaries logo
The Climate Ready Estuaries program works with the National Estuary Program and the coastal management community to assess climate change vulnerabilities, develop and implement adaptation strategies, engage and educate stakeholders, and share lessons learned about climate change adaptation.
Great Lakes Restoration logo
Great Lakes Restoration Exit EPA Disclaimer works to address urgent issues in the Great Lakes, including cleaning up toxics and areas of concern, combating invasive species, promoting nearshore health by protecting watersheds from polluted run-off, restoring wetlands and other habitats, tracking progress, and working with strategic partners.
Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force logo
Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force was developed to help long-term recovery following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The task force works to develop a restoration strategy that proposes a Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration agenda.

Working With Our Partners

National Ocean Council logo
The National Ocean Council has developed the National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes to address some of the most pressing challenges facing those areas.
StormSmart Coasts logo
StormSmart Coasts Exit EPA Disclaimer is a resource for coastal decision-makers looking for the latest and best information on how to protect their communities from weather and climate hazards.

The Coastal States Organization Exit EPA Disclaimer was established in 1970 to represent the governors of the nation's 35 coastal states, commonwealths, and territories on legislative and policy issues related to the sound management of coastal, Great Lakes, and ocean resources.

New England Federal Partners is an affiliation of 16 federal agencies in New England and the northeast that meets regularly to consider climate change adaptation and mitigation and marine spatial planning in connection with coastal and ocean management issues. The purpose of the group is to facilitate collaborative efforts on the part of all federal agencies in the region to support states and local governments in dealing with these matters.

Climate and Water Strategy
Our Goals:

Photo of water surface
  • Collaborate with partners to ensure information and methodologies necessary to respond to climate change in ocean and coastal areas are collected or produced, analyzed or formatted, promoted, and easily available. 
  • Support and build networks of local, tribal, state, regional, and federal collaborators to take effective adaptation measures for coastal and ocean environments through EPA's geographically targeted programs. 
  • Address climate driven environmental changes in coastal areas and ensure that mitigation and adaptation are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner. 
  • Protect ocean environments by incorporating shifting environmental conditions and other emerging threats into EPA programs. 

To learn more, read the Coastal and Ocean Waters section of the National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change.

Featured Items


Restore-Adapt-Mitigate: Responding to Climate Change through Coastal Habitat Restoration, a new study released by Restore America's Estuaries on April 19, 2012, for the first time links ecologically important coastal habitat restoration with adaptation and mitigation strategies as a way to reduce the impacts of ongoing global climate change. The report demonstrates that coastal wetland restoration--everything from restoring salt marshes, to protecting mangroves, and creating new coastal wetlands--can be an integral part of public and private initiatives to combat climate change.

Cover Coastal Ready Estuaries 2011 Progress Report

Climate Ready Estuaries 2011 Progress Report (PDF) (24 pp, 5,152K, About PDF)
The 2011 Progress Report describes program accomplishments and the new National Estuary Program projects that were launched during 2011. In addition, this progress report uses examples from Climate Ready Estuaries projects that started between 2008 and 2010 to show how the risk management paradigm can be used for climate change adaptation.

Rolling Easements Primer (PDF) (179 pp, 6,238K, About PDF) This primer discusses future development of low-lying coastal lands based on the premise that eventually the land must give way to the rising sea. The primer examines more than a dozen approaches for ensuring that wetlands and beaches can migrate inland.

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