Blue Water Task Force, Ocean Friendly Gardens, Water Quality
May 26 2016

2015 Clean Water Annual Report

by Mara Dias

As America heads to the beach this coming holiday weekend, learn what Surfrider volunteers and activists are doing in communities around the country to protect public health and clean water at the beach. 

Everyone should have access to clean water to surf, swim and play in. The Surfrider Foundation’s Clean Water Initiative is taking a multi-tiered approach to tackle ocean pollution problems. We are testing the waters for bacteria
and toxins, raising public awareness and providing real solutions to ocean pollution; solutions that restore healthy watersheds, protect local water supplies and keep pollution from reaching the ocean.

The Clean Water Annual Report tracks the progress of our BWTF and OFG programs during the calendar year of 2015 and presents case studies of how Surfrider Chapters are using these programs to protect public health, identify water quality concerns and bring together local communities to find and implement solutions.  It's amazing what an dedicated network of volunteers can accomplish in just one year!

During 2015, the Blue Water Task Force water testing program continued to grow with overall testing up 14% from the previous year.  There were 31 BWTF labs that processed 4,639 water samples collected from 317 distinct sampling sites.  We welcomed four new labs into the program: Oahu, HI; Olympic Peninsula, WA; North Coast, OR; and The Grauer School, CA.  The Rincón Chapter in Puerto Rico put out a massive volunteer effort last year running nearly 1000 water tests with approximately 120 chapter, community, and student volunteers participating in their program during the calendar year. 

The collective results from all the participating BWTF labs have remained relatively constant since we began compiling an annual report in 2011.  Of the 4,639 water test results reported in 2015, 70% indicated low bacteria levels, 12% indicated medium bacteria levels, and 18% measured high bacteria levels that exceed the national water quality standards set by the EPA to protect public health in recreational waters.

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.  During the 2015, Surfrider chapters and activists held 253 events, and clocked nearly 4000 volunteer hours to educate the public on the problems created by urban runoff and traditional landscaping practices and to instruct and explain the value of applying CPR – Conservation, Permeability and Retention - to our yards with Ocean Friendly Gardens.  

This year’s report presents case studies that describe how four chapters are implementing their clean water programs to raise awareness about water pollution issues in their communities and to advocate for solutions.  Download the full report here or click below to read their stories directly.

Huntington Beach / Seal Beach, California

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Newport, Oregon

Kaua’i, Hawaii