01 • 19 • 2023
Pass the Safe Waterways Act
To improve Florida's beach water quality testing and notification protocol and procedures.
Florida is home to countless miles of beaches and waves that attract millions upon millions of visitors from around the globe every year to recreate in and enjoy. The Florida Healthy Beaches Program, administered by the Florida Department of Health and county health departments, is tasked with testing beach waters for enterococci bacteria and promptly notifying the public when elevated bacteria levels are present. Unfortunately, in practice and implementation, Florida's beach water monitoring and public notification varies on a county by county basis, leaving beachgoers vulnerable to getting sick at the beach, or worse, from recreating in Florida's ocean waters.
The Safe Waterways Act, bipartisan legislation filed in the Florida Senate (SB172) and House (HB177) in January 2023, will further protect public health and ensure consistency in beach water quality monitoring and notification by:
- Requiring DOH to adopt and enforce rules to protect the health, safety, and welfare of persons using beach waters and public bathing places
- Requiring DOH to issue health advisories when a water body fails to meet water quality standards
- Requiring the closure of waterbodies that fail to meet standards if DOH deems it necessary
- Prescribing conspicuous signage requirements for health advisories
- Establishing a public statewide interagency database for the reporting of fecal indicator bacteria data
Surfrider's Florida network is working to advance this legislation in 2023 to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of beachgoers throughout the Sunshine State.