How will we adapt?

A Global Challenge 

Adapting to rising tides can mean individuals elevating a single property,  a community elevating a road or building a dike, or a region taking larger-scale action. Around the world, coastal cities are debating whether to create stronger barriers against the water, build for a wetter future, or retreat to higher ground.

Some solutions involve building or strengthening physical barriers (such as a berm, levee, or seawall) along the shore. These barriers may be fixed, like New Orleans’ levees, or dynamic, like Rotterdam’s “sand engine,” an artificial sand bank of 21 million cubic meters of sand deposited off the coast, allowing wind and waves to shape it into a buffer.

Other solutions focus on altering the built environment by elevating buildings and roads, incorporating the natural protection of dunes or  salt marsh, and designing buildings with flooding in mind.

Reef Balls

In two years, sediment has accumulated behind these reef balls in Stratford. Together with the salt marsh grass planted behind them, they are slowing the waves and protecting the shoreline from erosion. 


“Eco-engineering” integrates ecology and engineering, designing ecosystems that can benefit both humans and the environment. A local example is the experiment being conducted in Stratford to see if large, concrete “reef balls” that have been used elsewhere to create habitat for shellfish can protect the shoreline from erosion.