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12 • 20 • 2022

A successful year for the Blue Water Task Force

By Michelle Parker-Ortiz

The Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) is Surfrider’s volunteer water quality monitoring program that provides critical information to protect public health at the beach. Chapter water testing programs are designed to fill in the gaps and extend the coverage of state and local agency beach programs, so there is more information available to inform safe recreation in coastal waterways. The Blue Water Task Force program has continued to grow and set records over the last few years, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Preliminary data shows that, in 2022, the program has already surpassed last year’s record for the number of water tests performed in a year- and the year isn’t even over yet! As it stands now, the BWTF network is wrapping up 2022 with 8500+ water samples analyzed, almost 500 sampling sites, and 53 active labs across the country. This year alone, six chapters have created new BWTF labs including:

  1. The Maine Chapter launched their water testing program in the cold of January, with strong support from staff at the Maine Healthy Beaches Program. Chapter volunteers currently collect water samples from four ocean beach sites, and bring them to Katahdin Analytical Services to be analyzed.
  2. The Delaware Chapter began BWTF water quality testing in early March. The chapter has partnered with University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean & Environment Citizens Monitoring Program to conduct monitoring on ocean surf beaches in summer, and bay beaches in fall and spring.
  3. The Three Capes, OR Chapter began testing in late March in partnership with Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP). Three Capes chapter volunteers collect water samples year-round, every other week, and bring them to TEP’s state-certified lab to be processed.
  4. The Texas Coastal Bend Chapter started their BWTF program in July. The chapter currently partners with Texas A&M Corpus Christi to monitor three ocean beach sites year-round. Surfrider volunteers collect water samples from Padre Balli Beach and JP Luby Surf Park, and bring them to Texas A&M’s microbiology lab for processing.
  5. The Florida Keys Chapter launched their program in August, in partnership with Ocean Studies Charter School in the heart of Key Largo. Since then, the chapter volunteers have collected samples to be processed at Ocean Studies, and have also trained students and teachers on BWTF field sampling and laboratory protocols, which has prepared students to participate in sample collection and processing as well.
  6. The South Orange County BWTF began water quality testing in October, making them our newest lab! The laboratory currently complements monitoring done by South Orange County Wastewater Authority by conducting sampling at San Onofre Beach year-round.

We are ecstatic to welcome these new labs into our network. With new labs being added to our network across the country, our program continues to contribute to protecting clean water by facilitating: 

  • More volunteers engaging in water quality issues and monitoring in their own communities
  • More recreational beaches being sampled more frequently
  • More water quality information available to inform the public about the safety of recreating in their local waterways
  • More information to identify pollution hot spots and to direct source tracking investigations and pollution solutions

Thank you to all of our new and existing BWTF labs for continuing to provide the public with crucial water quality information so that everyone can be aware of where it’s safe to swim and play. We’d also like to offer a huge congratulations to our labs for continuing to break sampling records! As our labs know, every water sample provides us with knowledge about local water quality. To keep up with our program or find a BWTF lab testing near you, check out our online map at bwtf.surfrider.org.

 

Thank you to our national BWTF program sponsor, Dragon Alliance, for the ongoing support.