• Mara Dias, Waterkeeper Swim Guide
    April 23, 2018

This article originally appeared on Surfrider Foundation’s website, on April 20, 2017. It is co-authored by Surfrider’s Mara Dias and Colleen Henn.

The Surfrider Foundation is pleased to release its 2017 Clean Water Annual Report which tracks the progress of our Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) and Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) programs during the calendar year of 2017. Especially when it is difficult to depend on the federal agencies tasked with protecting our clean water and healthy coasts – learn more about this concern here – it is so encouraging to see how much a dedicated network of volunteers can accomplish in just one year!

It is one of the Surfrider Foundation’s core beliefs that everyone should have access to clean water to surf, swim and play in. Through their Clean Water Initiative, Surfrider Foundation is taking a multi-tiered approach to protect water quality in local waterways and to reduce ocean pollution. We are testing the water for bacteria and other contaminants, raising awareness and offering integrated solutions that restore healthy watersheds, protect local water supplies and keep pollution from reaching the ocean. Read the Clean Water Report to learn what Surfrider volunteers and activists are doing in communities around the country to protect public health and clean water at the beach.

Photo courtesy of Surfrider Foundation

During 2017, the Blue Water Task Force water testing program continued to grow with overall testing up 18% from the previous year. There were 40 BWTF labs that processed 6,097 water samples collected from 446 distinct sampling sites. And we have already brought 5 new labs onboard already in 2018!

The collective results from all the participating BWTF labs have remained relatively constant since we began compiling an annual report in 2011. Of the 6,097 water test results reported in 2017, 70% indicated low bacteria levels, 11% indicated medium bacteria levels, and 19% measured high bacteria levels that exceed the national water quality standard set by the EPA to protect public health in recreational waters.

Photo courtesy of Surfrider Foundation

The majority of the water samples that failed to meet health standards were collected from freshwater sources such as rivers, creeks and marshes that are influenced by stormwater runoff or at beaches near these outlets. This is consistent with national trends, which show that stormwater runoff is the number one cause of beach closures and swimming advisories in the United States.

Surfrider chapters are also digging in and using their Ocean Friendly Gardens program to help solve the water quality problems caused by stormwater and urban runoff in their local communities. By planting native, climate-appropriate plants, building healthy soils, and carefully shaping landscapes to slow down and retain rainwater, Surfrider volunteers are transforming landscapes and hardscapes to reduce pollution and conserve water and wildlife habitat. During 2017, 23 Surfrider chapters ran OFG programs and installed 52 gardens to transform public and residential spaces to become Ocean Friendly.

Photo courtesy of Surfrider Foundation

In 2017, many chapters were also able to achieve great success in advancing policy changes that have resulted in better public health protection at the beach and the protection of local water supplies and coastal watersheds. Read the Clean Water Report for more details on these campaign victories and to learn how the chapters featured in the below case studies are implementing their clean water programs to raise awareness about water pollution issues and to advocate for solutions. Download the full report here or click below to read their stories directly.

  • Maui, Hawaii
  • North Coast, Oregon
  • Cape Fear Chapter and University of North Carolina Wilmington Surfrider Club
  • Ventura, California
  • Rincon, Puerto Rico & St. John, U.S.V.I
  • Anyone can join Surfrider in their efforts to fight for clean water by participating in this action alert and asking Congress to support continued funding for beach water testing programs. A day at the beach shouldn’t cause you or your family to get sick at the beach. Stand up for Clean Water!

    Mara Dias is the Surfrider Foundation’s Water Quality Manager,
    where she over sees the Blue Water Task Force Water
    Quality Monitoring Program.

    Colleen Henn is the Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force Program Coordinator.

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