03 • 18 • 2020

Activist Spotlight: Aaron Barnes of the Palm Beach County Blue Water Task Force

Please meet Aaron Barnes, one of the fearless leaders of the Palm Beach County's Blue Water Task Force. A waterman by nature, Aaron helps the Palm Beach County Chapter to coordinate water quality sampling at numerous ocean and inland beaches. Surfrider Foundation volunteers collect the samples and drop them off to the students at Forest Hills High School to be processed. Hear from Aaron about the importance of this program to him and his community! 

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?  

I have been involved with Surfrider for over 20 years. I joined originally in Orlando, FL, where I used to live. I became involved because I have been a waterman since I was young and have personally seen changes in my local surf breaks and fishing areas. There was increasing pollution and decreasing wildlife.  

Q: What are some local issues that affect water quality in your community?   

Here in Palm Beach County, we have a few things that affect our water quality. Fertilizer and chemical runoff from agricultural areas in the middle of the state affect water quality on the coast, and there are still a couple of places where minimally treated sewage waste is released into the ocean.

Q: How is your Chapter/Club responding to those issues? 

Our Blue Water Task Force tests nine locations on the beaches, as well as inland waters. We try and track what conditions increase the harmful pollution and we also try and push for regulations to stop it at the source. 

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?

The high school that processes our water samples for the Blue Water Task Force, Forest Hill High School, won an award for environmental stewardship from the Treasure Coast Chapter of Florida’s Association of Environmental Professionals.


Aaron showing some stoke when the Palm Beach BWTF was featured on WPTV local television, Surfrider Foundation partners with local HS students to make beaches safer.

Q: Why is being involved in the Surfrider Foundation important to you?  

On a personal level, I am in the water all the time with various water sports and just enjoying the outdoors. I want to not have to worry about getting sick or having access to the areas I enjoy. On a higher level, I want to help the environment to get clean, nourish the wildlife and rebuild ecosystems for all to enjoy. 

Q: How can we all pitch in to help protect clean water and healthy beaches?  

If everyone did at least one thing a day to reduce their plastic and environmental footprint, the earth could start to heal itself. If we can reduce the demand for single-use plastics and harmful agricultural chemicals, that would be amazing! 

Q:  Anything else you’d like to add? 

It is about showing people the harsh reality of what is happening now, and that we are nearing the point of permanent environmental damage. I firmly believe that if we can reach out and educate society on the serious problems of plastic use and causes for environmental warming, society will create the change necessary to save and preserve the environment.