Posted: May 26, 2020 at 3:50 pm

Photo by: Cali Brennan

Clean water is a central initiative of the Surfrider Foundation, whose mission is the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches.

An estimated 180 million people visit the beaches in the United States alone every year to enjoy some of the nation’s most outstanding public areas. Surfrider works in innovative ways alongside government programs and organizations like Swim Guide, to ensure that people have access to water quality information to prevent themselves or their families from getting sick after a day at the beach.

Photo credit: Gustavo Llerenas

The Blue Water Task Force is Surfrider Foundation’s citizen science water quality monitoring program that operates through a national network of over 50 water testing labs. Surfrider chapters leverage results produced by this volunteer-run program to raise awareness of local pollution problems and bring together communities to implement solutions. Over the past 25 years, the Blue Water Task Force has grown to become the largest volunteer-run beach water testing program in the United States.

So far, six Surfrider chapters have joined as Swim Guide Affiliates, including:


As beaches start to reopen during this current phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Surfrider Foundation is pleased to release its 2019 Clean Water Report to protect public health and clean water.

The report features case studies and the collective results from Surfrider’s Blue Water Task Force. It also highlights outcomes from Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program, which provides landscaping solutions to protect clean water and support resilient coasts.

Blue Water Task Force

During 2019, 54 Blue Water Task Force labs collected and processed 7,707 water samples from 484 distinct sampling sites. Chapter water testing programs are designed to fill in the gaps and extend the coverage of state and local agency beach programs. Surfrider Foundation citizen scientists test beaches that are not covered by agencies, and also monitor potential sources of pollution such as stormwater outlets, rivers, and creeks that discharge onto the beach. The Blue Water Task Force operates year-round, providing public health protection through the off-season when lifeguards leave the beach and health officials stop collecting water samples.

While Surfrider temporarily suspended water quality monitoring operations earlier this spring to protect the health of volunteers during the COVID-pandemic, some chapters who are able to control access to their lab spaces and practice non-contact sample hand-off have started testing again.  Surfrider’s new COVID safety protocols are accessible here.  Many chapter programs have built decades-long datasets that provide valuable water quality information, and they all look forward to continuing to provide this service to their communities.

All of Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force data can be easily accessed online, and meets the Open Data Standard for Recreational Water Quality to further increase the ease of access, interoperability and share-ability of this important data. Visit the newly refreshed national Blue Water Task Force database at to see the breadth of beaches covered by this volunteer-run program. If Surfrider is not monitoring a beach near you, look on Swim Guide’s map or locate your local agency-run beach monitoring via Surfrider’s One-Stop-Shop for Beach Water Quality Nationwide.

Ocean Friendly Gardens

Upstream, Surfrider chapters are digging into their Ocean Friendly Gardens programs to help solve the water quality problems caused by stormwater and urban runoff in their local communities. By using native plants, building healthy soils naturally, and carefully shaping landscapes to slow down and retain rainwater, Ocean Friendly Gardens transform landscapes and hardscapes to reduce urban runoff and filter out pollutants. Ocean Friendly Gardens also help to conserve water, create a wildlife habitat, and can even reduce the impacts of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and sequestering it in the soil.

During 2019, 23 Surfrider chapters ran Ocean Friendly Gardens programs and helped transform 77 residential and public spaces into Ocean Friendly Gardens.

Check out this great video created by the Los Angeles Chapter and their local partners, SELVA EcoGardens, to instruct homeowners on how to remove their thirsty turf lawns and replace them with mulch and other native or climate-appropriate plants.

The 2019 Clean Water Report also features case studies highlighting the efforts of four chapters as they empower their local communities to address challenging pollution problems such as toxic algae blooms, urban runoff, and industrial discharges of pollution.

Photo by: R Gold Photography

Access the full Clean Water Report to learn about how Surfrider Foundation’s activists protect public health and clean water at their local beaches.
Anyone can join in Surfrider Foundation’s efforts to fight for clean water and healthy beaches.

You should never get sick after a day at the beach. So please, look on Swim Guide’s map to find your local beach, and know before you go whether or not it’s safe to swim. Surfrider Foundation looks forward to adding additional Blue Water Task Force Programs as affiliates to the Swim Guide to get more water quality information of beaches, ponds, streams, and waterbodies into the hands of recreational users.

Swim Guide
is supported by
* The RBC Foundation

Swim Guide shares the best information we have at the moment you ask for it. Always obey signs at the beach or advisories from official government agencies. Stay alert and check for other swimming hazards such as dangerous currents and tides. Please report your pollution concerns so Affiliates can help keep other beach-goers safe.

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