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Water: Climate Change and Water

Resources and Tools

This page provides tools and resources related to climate change and water.

EPA National Water Program Climate Change Adaptation Tools Handout newcontent

Visit EPA's Main Climate Change Site to Learn More

Additional resources may be found on this website including:

Note: Several of the links listed below will take you to non-EPA websites. In doing so, EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, or applications. Exit EPA Disclaimer


Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments: A Review of Water Utility Practices (PDF) (32 pp, 642K, About PDF)
This study examines and documents the steps taken by eight water utilities in an attempt to identify the emergent characteristics of water utility climate change vulnerability assessments. By examining the approaches taken and articulating the steps, information, and judgments needed for such decision making, this study hopes to contribute to the collaborative problem solving among the user and research communities.

Climate Ready Water Utilities Toolbox
The Climate Ready Water Utilities Toolbox provides access to resources containing climate-related information relevant to the water sector, including to the Climate Resilience Evaluation & Awareness Tool (CREAT).

Effective Water Utility Management
EPA is working collaboratively with six national organizations that support drinking water and wastewater utilities to promote effective utility management based on series of Ten Attributes of Effectively Managed Water Sector Utilities (Attributes). These Attributes were recommended by a group of leading water sector utility managers from across the nation. The goal of the Effective Utility Management initiative is to help utilities address a full range of challenges and help them move toward sustainable operations and infrastructure.

ENERGY STAR for Water Utilities
Managers of drinking water systems and wastewater treatment plants can now track energy use, energy costs, and associated carbon emissions by using Portfolio Manager, EPA's online benchmarking tool. Portfolio Manager also offers wastewater treatment plant managers the ability to compare the energy use of their plants with other peer plants using the EPA energy performance rating system.

Integrated Regional Water Management Handbook
Integrated Regional Water Management is a collaborative effort to manage all aspects of water resources in a region. It crosses jurisdictional, watershed, and political boundaries; involves multiple agencies, stakeholders, individuals, and groups; and attempts to address the issues and differing perspectives of all the entities involved through mutually beneficial solutions.

U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Program
The Water Power Program researches, tests, evaluates, and develops innovative technologies capable of generating renewable, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective electricity from water resources. This includes conventional hydropower, as well as marine and hydrokinetic technologies.

Water and Energy Efficiency for Utilities
A website with information about water and energy efficiency, especially for residents. Being water and energy efficient provides a wide range of benefits—for utilities, consumers, businesses and the community as a whole. Using less water means moving and treating less water, which helps reduce the strain on our water supplies and drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

Water Availability and Supply
This website explains best industry practices for water efficiency, as well as new strategies that adjust for variable water quantity and quality.

Water Research Foundation Climate Change Clearinghouse
The Climate Change Clearinghouse provides numerous resources to water supply utility managers with key information about climate change impacts and how these impacts will affect utility operations. These resources provide water  resource managers with the information and tools they need to successfully adapt both their short-term and long-term planning activities to climate change.

Water Utility Climate Alliance
The Water Utility Climate Alliance is dedicated to collaborating on climate change issues affecting drinking water utilities. By enhancing climate change research and developing adaptation strategies, water utilities will be positioned to respond to climate change and protect our water supplies.

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Watersheds and Wetlands

How-To Manual: Update and Enhance Your Local Source Water Protection Assessments (PDF) (36 pp, 656K, About PDF)
This manual is intended to help Source Water Protection partners protect the raw sources of their drinking water from Potential Contaminant Sources.

Low Impact Development
This website provides fact sheets, reports, videos, and informational resources about low impact development.

National Arbor Day Foundation
This website provides information about planting and caring for trees and the Rain Forest Rescue and Tree City USA programs.

National Fish Habitat Action Plan
This is what the National Fish Habitat Action Plan is all about—locally-driven efforts that build private and public partnerships to improve fish habitat. Fish Habitat Action Plan partnerships are self-identified, self-organized, and self-directed communities of interest formed around geographic areas, keystone species, or system types.

National Wetland Condition Assessment
Field crews have completed field sampling in the first-ever national survey on the condition of the Nation's wetlands. Crews endured extreme heat, flooding, tropical storms, and forest fires during the field season to sample 1,178 sites spread across the country from Florida to Alaska. Over the next year the U.S. EPA and its State, Tribal, and Federal partners will process the field samples, assure the quality of the data collected, and begin to analyze the data. A report detailing the results of the survey will be released in 2013. 

North America Freshwater Conservation Programs
This website includes information on Nature Conservancy programs to conserve freshwater resources.

Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources
The goal of this report is to provide useful information on the state of knowledge regarding adaptation options for key, representative ecosystems and resources that may be sensitive to climate variability and change.

Source Water Collaborative
SourceWaterCollaborative.org is a web forum about where America's safe drinking water begins – the lakes, streams, rivers and aquifers we tap for public water systems. It is a web portal of the Source Water Collaborative, 23 national organizations united to protect America's sources of drinking water.

State and Private Forestry
State and private forestry programs bring forest management assistance and expertise to a diversity of landowners, including small woodlot, tribal, state, and federal, through cost-effective, non-regulatory partnerships.

The Active River Area: A Conservation Framework for Protecting Rivers and Streams
This document provides a systematic means for conceptualizing and protecting the river as a dynamic system with a  broad range of conditions that are typical of natural river systems. The framework is spatially explicit and can be readily identified – narrow in some areas, wider in others – and captures the living, dynamic processes and places that define these systems. The framework includes a number of distinct components which provide specificity to guide actions for protection, restoration and management.

Wise Use of Floodplains
The Wide Use of Floodplains project focuses on the wise use of floodplains in six case study catchments across France, Ireland, Scotland, and England. It aimed to show how the wise use of floodplains could contribute to the sustainable management of water within river basins and catchments.

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Coastal and Ocean Waters

Blue Climate Solutions
Blue Climate Solutions addresses the roles coastal and ocean ecosystems play as natural carbon sinks, including the conservation of ecosystems such as seagrass meadows, mangrove swamps, and salt marshes.

Climate Central - Surging Seas
This website provides maps, tools, reports, and news related to sea level rise analysis.

Economics of Adaptation Along Developed Coastlines
A focus article that presents a framework for evaluating the economics of adaptation to permanent inundation from sea-level rise that employs detailed local scale data and is spatially comprehensive, and apply the framework to estimate costs of adaptation for the full coastline of the continental U.S.

National Academies of Science Oceans and Climate Change Topic
These reports are unique, authoritative expert evaluations of oceans and climate change topics.

National Ocean Council
The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan addresses some of the most pressing challenges facing the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.

NOAA Coastal Blue Carbon Program
Coastal Blue Carbon's efforts include: exploring how to incorporate carbon services into existing domestic and international policies, programs, and activities; helping to fill the science gaps in our understanding of the distribution, magnitude, and rate of coastal habitat carbon services; providing support for ongoing efforts to develop protocols for including coastal carbon services in carbon markets both; within the U.S. and internationally.

NOAA Digital Coasts
The tools on this webpage support coastal decision-making by transforming Digital Coast data into information tailored for specific issues.

NOAA StormSmart Coasts Program
StormSmart Coasts 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.

Ocean Acidification and Marine pH
The U.S. EPA received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity requesting that EPA revise its recommended national marine pH water quality criterion for the protection of aquatic life and asking EPA to publish information and provide guidance on ocean acidification.

Ocean Acidification and the Clean Water Act 303(d) Program, November 15, 2010 (PDF) (5 pp, 26K, About PDF)
Provides questions and answers about ocean acidification and the purpose of Clean Water Act 303(d).

Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean
This report, requested by Congress, reviews the current state of knowledge and identifies gaps in understanding, and provides scientific advice to help guide the national ocean acidification research program.

Ocean Acidification: An Integrated Assessment Model of the U.S. Mollusk Fishery
This paper proposes an integrated biogeochemical-economic model to estimate the social welfare impacts of ocean acidification in the U.S. mollusk fishery.

Rolling Easements Primer (PDF) (179 pp, 6.1MB, About PDF)
This document presents an alternative vision, in which future development of some low-lying coastal lands is based on the premise that eventually the land must give way to the rising sea. We provide a primer on more than a dozen  approaches for ensuring that wetlands and beaches can migrate inland, as people remove buildings, roads, and other structures from land as it becomes submerged. Collectively, these approaches are known as rolling easements.

U.S. Global Change Research Program, Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.1 - Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region
This report is concerned with temperature changes in the atmosphere, differences in these changes at various levels in the atmosphere, and our understanding of the causes of these changes and differences.

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Water Quality

A Primer on Using Biological Assessments to Support Water Quality Management (PDF) (108 pp, 6.1MB, About PDF)
This document serves as a primer on the role of biological assessments in a variety of water quality management program applications including how the U.S. EPA, States, and Tribes are exploring the how to identify baseline biological conditions against which the effects of global climate change on aquatic life can be studied and compared.

Applicability of Effluent Guidelines and Categorical Pretreatment Standards to Biodiesel (PDF) (13 pp, 592K, About PDF)
This document discusses the applicability of effluent guidelines and categorical pretreatment standards to biodiesel.

This website provides the regulations and standards for renewable fuels in the United States.

Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide
This website provides information about Geologic Sequestration, which is the process of injecting carbon dioxide (CO2), captured from an industrial (e.g., steel and cement production) or energy-related source (e.g., a power plant or natural gas processing facility), into deep subsurface rock formations for long-term storage. This is part of a process frequently referred to as "carbon capture and storage" or CCS.

Instream Flow Council
The Instream Flow Council is an organization that represents the interests of state and provincial fish and wildlife management agencies in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to improving the effectiveness of their instream flow programs.

Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management
Low impact development is an approach to land development (or re-development) that works with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. Low-impact development employs principles such as preserving and recreating natural landscape features, minimizing effective imperviousness to create functional and appealing site drainage that treat stormwater as a resource rather than a waste product. This website provides more information about low impact development, case studies, and design and guidance materials.

National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permitting and Climate Change (PDF) (1 pp, 75K, About PDF)
The 2010 version of the National Discharge Elimination System Permit Writers' Manual contains two sections that address climate change, to make permit writers aware that conditions may change in ways that will affect the permitting process. The two sections,Thermal Discharge—Clean Water Act Section 316(a) Variance and Receiving Water Upstream Flow, are provided.

Protecting Instream Flows
This module discusses an approach for defining and restoring the streamflow conditions that sustain the biological diversity—native riverine species, aquatic and riparian communities, and natural ecosystem functions—of rivers. This approach is applicable when working with dam operators or water managers to change the way water is being stored, released, or diverted for human use. It is also useful in watershed restoration projects wherein various best  management practices or other measures are being used to restore natural watershed functions, including hydrologic regimes.

U.S. Department of Energy - Energy and Water Website
This Department of Energy website provides information about hydropower.

Water Quality Scorecard
The scorecard is intended for municipalities of various sizes in rural, suburban, and urban settings, including those that have combined sewers, municipal separate storm sewers, or limited or no existing stormwater infrastructure. It can help municipal staff, stormwater managers, planners, and other stakeholders better understand where a municipality's land development regulations and other ordinances may present barriers or opportunities to implementing a comprehensive water quality protection approach.

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Climate Change and Pacific Rim Indigenous Nation
The purpose of the Climate Change and Pacific Rim Indigenous Nations Project is to document the existing effects of climate change on Indigenous peoples and their homelands in Pacific Rim countries, describes examples of Indigenous nation responses to local circumstances and at the international level, and recommends future paths for indigenous nation governments to consider. Particular emphasis is given to discussing options for Indigenous nations to join together to influence the global discourse on strategies to respond to climate change and the causes of global warming and adaptation strategies in response to its inevitable impacts.

Climate Change and Tribes
This Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals website provides information and resources tailored to helping native people gain a better understanding of climate change and its impacts on their communities.

Climate Change Planning Tools for First Nations
These six guidebooks 'walk and talk' a First Nation through the planning process. Each develops an important part of the planning process and is a precursor to the next guidebook. They contain suggestions of how a First Nation might plan for climate change, how to involve the community, and activities that a First Nation can use to involve members of the community to set priorities and achieve them.

Conversations With the Earth: Indigenous Voices On Climate Change
Conversations with the Earth is an indigenous-led multimedia initiative using Facebook that amplifies indigenous voices in the global discourse on ecological and cultural challenges facing the planet, including climate change.

ONR: Our Natural Resources
ONR (pronounced "Honor") is an alliance of tribal natural resources organizations and tribes committed to develop and advance a national tribal natural resources strategy.

Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Network
The Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Network was established in 2009 to provide guidance and assist with outreach in the development of two climate change events. This group continues to meet via conference call every six to eight weeks.

Swinomish Climate Change Initiative
In the face of growing scientific consensus and mounting verifiable evidence, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community has begun a project to look at how climate change may affect the Swinomish Indian Reservation. Given the geographic location and characteristics of the Swinomish Indian Reservation, potential climate change impacts could be both significant and long-term.

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Climate Change and Water Science and Research

EPA Climate Change Science Webpage
EPA's climate change science page offers scientific information and data on climate change in the past and projections for the future.

EPA Climate Change Research
EPA's climate change research site shows research related to understanding the environmental and health impacts of climate change and provides sustainable solutions for adapting to and reducing the impact from a changing climate.

Search the EPA Office of Research and Development Science Inventory
The Science Inventory is a searchable database of EPA science activities and scientific and technical products conducted by EPA and through EPA-funded assistance agreements. Science Inventory records provide descriptions of the activity or product, contact information, and links to available publications/reports or websites.

Water Research Foundation Climate Change Clearinghouse
The Climate Change Clearinghouse provides numerous resources to water supply utility managers with key information about climate change impacts and how these impacts will affect utility operations. These resources provide water  resource managers with the information and tools they need to successfully adapt both their short-term and long-term planning activities to climate change.

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Data and Tools

BASINS Geographical Information System (GIS) and Climate Change
BASINS is a multi-purpose environmental analysis system that integrates a geographical information system (GIS), national watershed data, and state-of-the-art environmental assessment and modeling tools into one convenient package.

Data.gov increases the ability of the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government. Data.gov provides descriptions of the Federal datasets (metadata), information about how to access the datasets, and tools that leverage government datasets. The data catalogs will continue to grow as datasets are added. Federal, Executive Branch data are included in the first version of Data.gov.

Data.gov/Ocean Prototype
The National Ocean Council's portal for data, information, and tools to support people engaged in planning for the future of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. The website is a one-stop hub to support planners and to provide useful information to the public.

National Aquatic Resource Surveys
The U.S. EPA, states, and tribes are conducting a series of surveys of the nation's aquatic resources. Often referred to as probability-based surveys, these studies provide nationally consistent and scientifically-defensible assessments of our nation's waters and can be used to track changes in condition over time. Each survey uses standardized field and lab methods and is designed to yield unbiased estimates of the condition of the whole water resource being studied (i.e., rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands, or coastal waters).

National Hydrography Dataset
NHDPlus is a project envisioned by EPA. EPA's Office of Water, assisted by the U.S. Geological Survey, has supported the development of NHDPlus to enhance the EPA WATERS application. NHDPlus is an integrated suite of application-ready geospatial data sets that incorporate many of the best features of the National Hydrography Dataset, the National Elevation Dataset, the National Land Cover Dataset, and the Watershed Boundary Dataset.

National Wetlands Inventory
This website provides a series of topical maps to show wetlands and deepwater habitats. This geospatial information is used by Federal, State, and local agencies, academic institutions, and private industry for management, research, policy development, education and planning activities.

U.S. Geological Survey Light Detection and Radar Viewer (LIDAR)
This website provides tools to look at maps of hydrography, land cover, etc. A national atlas of streams and waterbodies is accessible.

WATERS (Watershed Assessment, Tracking & Environmental Results)
WATERS unites water quality information that was previously available only from several independent and unconnected databases.

Watershed and Water Quality Modeling Technical Support Center
The Watershed and Water Quality Modeling Technical Support Center provides Clean Water Act implementation assistance to EPA Regions, state and local governments, and their contractors. The Center, which is part of EPA's Research program, offers access to technically defensible tools and approaches that can be used in the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL), waste load allocations, and watershed protection plans.

Watershed Information and Data
National databases on surface water and ground water resources are available online and may be helpful in evaluating your water system's source water viability.

WEPPCAT: Assessing Climate Change and Sediment Loading
This tool was developed to assess and manage the potential impacts of climate change on sediment loading to streams using the water erosion prediction project (WEPP) model.

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For Kids and Educators

Alliance for Climate Education
The Alliance for Climate Education is the national leader in high school climate science education dedicated to educating America's high school students about the science behind climate change and inspiring them to do something about it—while having fun along the way.

Climate Adaptation and Mitigation E-learning (CAMEL)
This web portal is a free, comprehensive, interdiscplinary, multi-media resource for educators.

Climate Kids: NASA's Eyes on the Earth
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) developed an interactive website with games and teacher resources for students about global climate change.

EPA's Student's Guide to Global Climate Change
An interactive website about climate change with games, links, fun facts, and resources for teachers and students.

EPA's What You Can Do at School
Provides resources for students and educators to measure and reduce their school's greenhouse gas emissions and deepen their understanding of climate change.

Marian Koshland Science Museum Climate Change Online Exhibit
In this exhibition the National Academies of Science provide scientific information to help us make informed decisions and to help answer some important questions.

Oceans, Estuaries, and Coasts for Children, Students and Teachers
A website with links and information on how to protect the oceans and coastlines.

Saving Water Partnership for Kids
An interactive website for all ages about water efficiency for children, students, teachers, and parents.

Thirstin's Water Cycle
This short, animated video demonstrates how the water cycle works—from rain and water storage, to vapor and clouds.

WaterSense: Thirsty for Knowledge?
An interactive website for all ages for students to learn more about water efficiency. It also includes simple tips on how to save water and a game to "test your water sense."

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