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National Aquatic Resource Surveys

What is the National Coastal Condition Assessment?

The National Coastal Condition Assessment (NCCA) is a statistical survey of the condition of our Nation’s marine and Great Lakes coasts. The NCCA builds from previous National Coastal Assessments.

The goals of the NCCA are to address two key questions about the quality of the Nation’s coastal waters.

  • What percent of the Nation’s coastal waters are in good, fair, and poor condition for key indicators of water quality, ecological health, and recreation? 
  • What is the relative importance of key stressors such as nutrients and contaminated sediments? 

NCCA field season sampling is conducted every five years. Previous field seasons were conducted in 2010 and 2015.

Survey Design

The sampling design for this survey is a probability-based network that provides statistically-valid estimates of the condition of all coastal waters with known confidence. It is designed using modern survey techniques. Sample sites are selected at random to represent the condition of all coastal waters across each region and the nation as a whole. 

The NCCA sampling is comprised of coastal waters extending from the shoreline to the nearshore boundary of the open water of the oceans and Great Lakes. The assessment is limited to the fringing, shallow band of coastal waters most heavily used by humans and most vulnerable to activities within adjacent coastal watersheds.

View more details about the survey design in the design documents.


NCCA evaluates four indices of condition—water quality, sediment quality, benthic community condition, and fish tissue contaminants – to evaluate the ecological condition and recreational potential of coastal waters. Consistent sampling and analytical procedures ensure that the results can be compared across the country and over time. 

Indicators Evaluated for the NCCA 2010
Biological Chemical/Toxicity Physical Recreational/Human Health
*Nitrogen was measured but not assessed in the Great Lakes

**Human health fish tissue contaminants were assessed in the Great Lakes only