Blue Water Task Force, Water Quality
December 01 2017

Communicating Blue Water Task Force Results

by Colleen Henn

Last year Blue Water Task Force labs collected over 5,000 samples cumulatively. Among all 35 programs, each chapter employs their own method of communicating data to the public so people know where it’s safe to swim, fish, surf, and play.

Once the samples are collected, processed, and read, the results are immediately uploaded onto the website. Now that you have your data, how do you make sure it gets into the hands of those who need it?

Below are a variety of ways chapters are increasing the spread of their data.

Social Media

The easiest way for chapters to reach a broad variety of users is by sharing water quality results on social media. Once results are posted to the Blue Water Task Force data page and map, it is easy to share them to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. Chapters can then provide a short synopsis of the results. Posting water quality information on social media provides a platform for community members to share those results themselves, comment, ask questions, and tag their friends so they can learn more.

For example, check out these examples below from the Santa Cruz, Eastern Long Island, and Oahu Chapters.

Here’s an example of an Instagram post by the Oahu Chapter that points people to the website for more information about their sampling program.

Hint for instagram users: it’s possible to link multiple social media feeds to an instagram page so that when you post to the app, it is also shared to all other social media platforms.

Water Quality Reports

Taking the time to look at Blue Water Task Force results comprehensively provides a great tool for the chapter and the community by creating a snapshot of the program. Reports summarize the data collected, allowing chapters to identify trends over time and highlight potential problem areas. These reports then can be linked to Blue Water Task Force pages on the chapter’s website so anyone who visits the web page can have an idea of the framework of the program and water quality trends beyond the most recent results. These reports can be sent to local news groups with a press release, increasing the spread of your information even further.

Please see a number of example reports done by chapters nationally:

Marin County Chapter Water Quality Update June 2016

Port Orford Blue Water Task Force Summary and Highlights 2015-16 School Year

Eastern Long Island, What's In Your Water, Blue Water Task Force Water Quality Analysis

Oahu Water Quality Research

Check out the Blue Water Task Force section of Surfrider’s 2016 Clean Water Report for an example on what a Blue Water Task Force report looks like on the national scale.

Email Blasts

Some chapters send out “Water Quality Alert” emails to community members who subscribe, putting important water quality data right in people’s inboxes. By emailing community members directly, this provides an easy way for people to reply and ask questions.  

Community Presentations

Community presentations are a great way to invite any water-oriented community members to the room to educate about Blue Water Task Force programs, what waters are sampled for, and why this information is so important. The purpose of these presentations are to communicate water quality data to those it affects.

For example, check out Stena from the South Sound Chapter.

Because many South Sound sampling sites overlap with popular diving locations, Stena gave a presentation to the SCUBA club to educate divers about the impacts of pollution in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, and the southern Puget Sound region.

The Eastern Long Island Chapter routinely holds water quality workshops with both children and adults meeting down at the beach, talking about sources of pollution, and teaching participants how to collect a sample.

Community presentations provide a great opportunity to tie problems to solutions that will support clean water.

Posters and Postcards

Many chapters have found it helpful to print out posters of their BWTF map and most recent data that can be used as a prop at tabling events or community presentations. If the chapter creates a permanent poster, try to make sure the data is representative of typical results.

Located on the Brand Portal is a Blue Water Task Force postcard that labs can customize and make specific to their program. These are both useful for directing beachgoers to the BWTF website to find the data, and also to help guide volunteers in describing the sampling program, what labs sample for, and why.

Areas with restricted Internet access

After the series of natural disasters that struck the Atlantic this year, water quality testing labs including agency labs were left without power and the ability to both sample water and to make information accessible to the public.

In response to these natural disasters, Surfrider played a role in getting crucial water quality information to areas left without power. Steve Tamar who leads the Rincon Blue Water Task Force, began sampling drinking water sources along with their usual recreational sites. Because not all of the community has access to internet connection, the data is posted by hand on community message boards, broadcasted on the radio, and widely distributed by the university.

St John in the US Virgin Islands was also hit hard by Hurricane Irma.  Surfrider sent Katie Day, a staff scientist to get their water testing program off of the ground. Similar to Puerto Rico, many people in St John did not have access to internet connection so results were printed and distributed to community hubs, local government agencies, through local newspapers, and mentioned at community meetings.

Write up in Local Papers

If chapters have a good relationship with a local newspaper or news outlet, their water quality data can be included in local newspapers similar to the way weather is reported. Achieving a writeup in a newspaper is a great way for chapters to increase the spread of their data beyond their chapter network.

 

The 35+ Blue Water Task Force labs nationwide strive to provide valuable water quality information to beach communities, because nobody should get sick after a day at the beach. There are a number of ways chapters can ensure that crucial water quality information gets into the hands of the people who need it most.

If you have any questions or ideas about how to best communicate Blue Water Task Force data, please email Colleen Henn at chenn@surfrider.org.

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