05 • 12 • 2020

2019 Clean Water Report Released

By Mara DiasColleen Henn

As beaches across the United States start to reopen during this current phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Surfrider Foundation is pleased to release the 2019 Clean Water Report. 

This comprehensive annual report highlights the successes of our Blue Water Task Force and Ocean Friendly Gardens programs in 2019, and features case studies of chapters leveraging these clean water programs to help pair local pollution problems with solutions.  

Surfrider Foundation believes that everyone should have access to clean water to surf, swim, and play in. In fact, an estimated 180 million people visit and recreate at U.S. beaches every year, so it is imperative that they have access to water quality information to keep them and their families safe at the beach. Over the past 25 years, the Blue Water Task Force has grown into the largest volunteer-run beach water testing program in the country that provides beachgoers with the information they need for safe recreation. 

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 has temporarily suspended water quality monitoring operations to protect the health of volunteers during the ongoing pandemic, our volunteers are eager to start testing again as soon as health officials deem it safe for this type of work to resume. Many chapter programs have built decades-long datasets that provide valuable water quality information, and they 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 our newly refreshed national database at to see the breadth of beaches covered by the Blue Water Task Force. If Surfrider is not monitoring a beach near you, locate your local agency-run beach monitoring via Surfrider's One-Stop-Shop for Beach Water Quality Nationwide

Photo courtesy of Cali Brennan. 

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.

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 us in our efforts to fight for clean water and healthy beaches. Simply click here to ask Congress to reject the massive budget cuts proposed by the administration for the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These agencies carry out critical programs that protect public health of beach-goers, manage coastal resources, and help communities adapt to rising sea levels.