The State of Climate Adaptation in Water Resources Management: Southeastern United States and U.S. Caribbean

The intent of this report is to provide a brief overview of key climate change impacts and a review of the prevalent work occurring on climate change adaptation in the Southeastern United States and U.S. Caribbean, especially focusing on activities as they relate to water resources. The Southeastern United States includes Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, and Florida. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) comprise the U.S. Caribbean region. This report presents the results of EcoAdapt’s efforts to survey, inventory, and, where possible, assess climate-informed water resources action in the region.

The synthesis includes:

  • A summary of key regional climate change impacts and discussion on how the aforementioned issues combine to influence water supply, demand and use, quality, and delivery;
  • The results of a survey sent to federal, tribal, state, and other practitioners to identify challenges, needs, and opportunities for climate-informed water resources management;
  • Examples of adaptation initiatives from the region, focusing on activities in the natural and built environments as they relate to water resources;
  • Eighteen full-length case studies, detailing how adaptation is taking shape; and
  • A guide to the current suite of tools available to support adaptation action in water resources management, planning, and conservation.

Coastal Land Loss and the Mitigation-Adaptation Dilemma: Between Scylla and Charybdis

Coastal land loss is an inevitable consequence of the confluence of three primary factors: population growth, vanishing wetlands, and rising sea levels. Society may either mitigate coastal land loss by engaging in human engineering projects that create technological solutions or restore natural processes that protect the coastal zone, or it may choose to adapt to coastal land loss by shifting development and other human and economic resources out of areas especially at risk for coastal land loss. This Article first details the primary threats to coastal lands. Next, the Article discusses two primary means of addressing coastal land loss— mitigation and adaptation—applying those terms slightly differently than they are used in the broader climate change context in order to focus more precisely on the coastal land loss phenomena and its solutions. Finally, the Article makes three normative claims for why policy-makers should approach coastal land loss mitigation in particular with caution: (1) uncertainty of mitigation’s effectiveness scientifically and institutionally; (2) the political expediency of choosing mitigation over adaptation; and (3) the fact that failure to adapt past land-use activities in the coastal zone has contributed to the need to adapt or mitigate today.