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Water: Climate Change and Water

Water Quality

Climate change can have a variety of impacts on surface water, drinking water, and ground water quality. Higher water temperatures and changes in the timing, intensity, and duration of precipitation can affect water quality. Higher air temperatures (particularly in the summer), earlier snowmelt, and potential decreases in summer precipitation could increase the risk of drought. The frequency and intensity of floods could also increase. In addition, sea level rise may affect freshwater quality by increasing the salinity of coastal rivers and bays and causing saltwater intrusion—the movement of saline water into fresh ground water resources in coastal regions.

Numerous resources and tools related to water quality and climate change are available: explore our resources.

What EPA Is Doing

Image of the Green Infrastructure Initiative website
Green infrastructure is an approach to wet weather management that is cost-effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. The Green Infrastructure Initiative provides information on applications and approaches that can reduce, capture, and treat stormwater runoff at its source.

Low impact development is an approach to land development or redevelopment that works with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. Low impact development principles and practices allow water to be managed in a way that reduces the impact of built areas and promotes the natural movement of water within an ecosystem or watershed.

National Pollutant Discharge Eliminiation System (NPDES) logo
The NPDES Permit Writers Manual - Inclusion of Climate Change Considerations (PDF) (1 pp, 75K, About PDF) addresses the inclusion of climate change considerations as part of National Pollutant Discharge Eliminiation System (NPDES) permitting.

Geosequestration of carbon dioxide is the process of injecting carbon dioxide, captured from an industrial or energy-related source, into deep subsurface rock formations for long-term storage. EPA is working to ensure that geosequestration of carbon dioxide is responsibly managed to preserve underground sources of drinking water.

Working With Our Partners

Instream Flow Council logo
The Instream Flow Council Exit EPA Disclaimer is an organization that represents the interests of state and provincial fish and wildlife management agencies in the United States and Canada, dedicated to improving the effectiveness of their instream flow programs.
National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies logo
The National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies Exit EPA Disclaimer is an organization of public agencies whose function is the protection of lives, property and economic activity from the adverse impacts of storm and flood waters.
The Low Impact Development Center Exit EPA Disclaimer is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of low impact development technology. Low impact development is a comprehensive land planning and engineering design approach with a goal of maintaining and enhancing the pre-development hydrologic regime of urban and developing watersheds.

Climate and Water Strategy
Our Goals:

Photo of water surface
  • Protect waters of the United States and promote management of sustainable surface water resources.
  • Work to protect water resources from unintended adverse consequences as the nation makes decisions to reduce greenhouse gases and develop alternative sources of energy and fuel.
  • Collaborate to make hydrological and climate data and projections available.

To learn more, read the EPA water program’s 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change.

Featured Items

Cover of manual: BASINS Climate Assessment Tool

BASINS-CAT (Better Assessment Science Integrating Point & Nonpoint Sources – Climate Assessment Tool). BASINS is a multipurpose environmental analysis system that integrates a geographical information system, national watershed data, and state-of-the-art environmental assessment and modeling tools into one package. The BASINS Climate Assessment Tool (BASINS CAT) provides flexible capabilities for creating climate change scenarios, allowing users to quickly assess a wide range of “what if” questions about how weather and climate could affect their systems.


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