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The densely populated Narragansett Bay Watershed produces many benefits for people. The ecosystem provides recreational opportunities, food, storm and flood protection, natural beauty, and important cultural significance to the region.

Regulation

The October 23rd Narragansett Bay Estuary Program Workshop in Providence, Rhode Island included the official release of the program’s 2017 report.

That report tracks 24 indicators of the system’s overall health status, as well as recommending collaborative solutions for improving environmental conditions within the watershed. While the report says that the water in the Bay is getting cleaner due to restrictions on harmful chemicals and reductions in nutrient and pathogen pollution, it also states that:

“Stressors associated with climate change are increasing rapidly. Air and water temperatures are warming, the intensity and seasonality of precipitation are changing, and sea level is rising. These stressors are already causing ecological responses such as altering the estuarine fish community, with warm-water species increasing and cold-water species declining. Impacts of climate change on the cities, towns, and ecosystem of Narragansett Bay are projected to intensify, such as increased flooding and erosion of coastal properties, loss of salt marshes, and potentially more beach closures due to pathogens. Adaptation will require well- informed action by local communities.”

The Climate Change Stressors in the 500 page report are:

  • Air temperature increased approximately 1.5°C (2.7°F) from 1960 to 2015, while the increase in Bay water temperature was slightly greater at 1.6°C (2.9°F). Climate projections suggest that air temperature in the region will increase another 2 to 6°C (5 to 10°F) by 2100.
  • Annual precipitation has increased 0.4 to 0.7 inches per decade since 1895, and the amount falling during intense storms has increased 71 percent since 1965. Local projections include greater frequency, volume, and intensity and changing seasonality of precipitation.
  • Sea level in Rhode Island rose nine inches as measured at the tide gauge in Newport from 1930 to 2015 and 6.6 inches at Providence from 1938 to 2015. NOAA projects that sea level at Newport could rise as much as 3.4 feet by 2050 and eleven feet by 2100, considering factors such as rapid melting of land-based polar ice.

The Narragansett Bay Estuary Program is one of 28 programs designated as estuaries of national significance under the EPA’s National Estuary Program. The program helps protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of the Narragansett Bay itself as well as the million acre Narragansett Bay watershed. In 2015, the Estuary Program celebrated 30 years of protection and restoration of the Narragansett Bay watershed.

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