Water Burials

Families who feel a close affinity for the water may look for alternatives to traditional burials. Water burials are one form of natural burial for people who prefer to have their remains buried at sea.

What is a Water Burial?

Water burial is the term used to describe disposition of a person in water. There are two types of water burials: burial at sea and the scattering of ashes. In the United States, water burials are typically accompanied by restrictions or are regulated by a governing body.

  • Burial at sea Burial at sea can occur for both casketed and cremated remains. Families selecting burial at sea require permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) There are strict guidelines, including the rule that non-cremated remains must be buried at least three nautical miles from land. The EPA also provides recommendations on selecting biodegradable urns and caskets. Burials at sea began with the military, however, with these guidelines in place burials at sea are available to those interested.
    One unique type of burial at sea is an underwater burial at the Neptune Memorial Reef. The Neptune Society has created a man made underwater reef off the coast of Key Biscayne, Florida. Located 40 feet deep, the reef is planned to span 16 acres and accommodate 250,000 burials when complete.
  • Scattering of ashes Some families may choose to scatter a loved one's ashes at sea. U.S. federal law allows for the scattering of ashes at sea with some restrictions, including choosing a site at least three nautical miles from shore. Similarly to burial at sea, for families who elect to honor loved ones with flowers or wreaths, urn selections must be biodegradable to limit the impact to the environment.

Benefits of a Water Burial

A water burial is a type of natural burial. Families may choose it for many reasons including a desire for more eco-friendly options, or fond associations with the water. Conversations with loved ones and planning in advance are opportunities to understand what is best for you and your loved ones.