Our Programs | Nonpoint

The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program


Nonpoint source pollution, or polluted runoff, is the greatest threat to coastal waters. Note the darker, murky water flowing from the developed area at the lower right.

The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program was established by Congress in 1990 to encourage better coordination between state coastal zone managers and water quality experts to reduce polluted runoff in the coastal zone. Poor water quality is not just a result of what we do to the water but what we do on the land as well. Therefore, establishing shared responsibilities for managing coastal water quality between state coastal zone management agencies, who make land use decisions, and water quality agencies, who deal directly with the quality of our coastal waters, is needed.

The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program, which falls under Section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments (CZARA), is jointly administered by NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Program is unique in that it establishes a set of management measures for states to use in controlling polluted runoff. The measures are designed to control runoff from six main sources: forestry, agriculture, urban areas, marinas, hydromodification (shoreline and stream channel modification), and wetlands and vegetated shorelines, or riparian areas. These measures are backed by enforceable state policies and actions—state authorities that will ensure implementation of the program. All coastal and Great Lakes states and territories, which participate in the Coastal Zone Management Program are required to develop coastal nonpoint pollution control programs.

photo of water

The Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program establishes management measures to address nonpoint source pollution from a variety of sources, including agricultural activities.

The Coastal Nonpoint Program focuses on pollution prevention, minimizing the creation of polluted runoff rather than cleaning up already contaminated water—a very difficult and expensive process. The program encourages pollution prevention efforts at a local level, particularly improvements to land use planning and zoning practices to protect coastal water quality. Some of the land use practices NOAA recommends through the program include: preserving natural vegetation, avoiding development within sensitive habitats and erosion-prone areas, and limiting impervious surfaces such as pavement, decking, and roof tops, to the maximum extent practicable.


Factsheet About the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program — The factsheet provides an overview of the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program.

Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) section 6217 — Statutory language establishing the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program under the Coastal Zone Management Act.

Section 319 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) — Statutory language establishing EPA's Nonpoint Source Management Program (Section 319) under the Clean Water Act.

EPA, Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds — The EPA Office that jointly administers the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program with NOAA.

NOAA's Clean Marina Website — The Clean Marina Program is a voluntary, incentive-based program that can help state's address nonpoint source pollution from marina and boating activities and implement the marina management measures required under the Coastal Nonpoint Program.

For additional information, contact Allison Castellan.