Blue Water Task Force, Water Quality
June 03 2014

BWTF 2013 Annual Report

by Mara Dias

Surfrider is pleased to release the 2013 Blue Water Task Force Annual Report. 

The Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) is the Surfrider Foundation’s volunteer-run, water testing program.  In addition to providing valuable information on the safety of the water at their favorite beaches, Surfrider Chapters are using this program to educate students and the public about water quality issues and to motivate local governments and stakeholders to take action to identify and fix sources of pollution.

In 2013, there were twenty-eight BWTF labs conducting water testing programs and using Surfrider’s BWTF database and website to display and share their results. Four new labs were established by the New York City and Eastern Long Island Surfrider Chapters in New York, the Charleston Chapter in South Carolina, and one located on the North Coast of Oregon.   Total testing was up 15% from the previous year, with a total of 3,127 water tests performed during the 2013 calendar year.  

Most water samples collected by Surfrider, or 73%, were relatively clean and measured very low bacteria levels.  Eleven percent of the BWTF results indicated medium bacteria levels, and 16% indicated the presence of high bacterial levels considered unsafe for swimming, surfing, or other recreational exposure.  

The majority of the water samples that failed to meet health standards were taken from freshwater sources that drain the landscape or at beaches near these freshwater outlets.   This is consistent with national trends, as stormwater runoff is the number one cause of beach closures and swimming advisories in the United States.  In developed coastal watersheds, rain typically flows off of paved and manicured city, residential and agricultural landscapes. Urban runoff picks up contaminants as it flows downstream through the watershed and into the ocean, where it can present a health risk to swimmers, surfers and other recreational users.

Armed with their BWTF data, chapters are raising public awareness of local water quality issues and bringing together stakeholders to investigate and solve water quality problems caused by urban runoff and other sources of pollution.  This year’s report, presents case studies of three chapter BWTF programs that are taking on new water quality challenges and bringing together local interests and governing bodies to investigate and solve water pollution problems.

Download the 2013 BWTF Annual Report here.

Or jump straight to the case studies:

San Luis Obispo, CA
Port Orford, OR
Eastern Long Island, NY

Those of us who love the ocean have a responsibility to help protect it. Get involved and help support our chapter network. Go even further take a few minutes to ask congress to restore federal funding to support water testing programs around the US.