02 • 20 • 2015

Clean Water: Reduce, Re-use & Recycle

By Mara Dias

Clean water is essential.  We need it to live, and use it in everything we do. Here at Surfrider we highly value clean water for recreation. Clean water is also necessary to support industry and our economy. With that said, you would think we would not be so wasteful or careless with this precious but finite resource. Unfortunately that is usually not the case. 

As a modern society, we are overusing water.  We are wasting valuable freshwater by using it once, mixing it with our waste, cleaning it to remove most of that waste, and then discharging it into the ocean.  This is threatening the long-term security of our water supply and polluting coastal waters. 

Check out our short film The Cycle of Insanity, created by Surfrider staff and volunteers, to learn more about the real story of water. 

There is a better way though. Together we can reduce, re-use and recycle water to protect local water supplies and to keep pollution from reaching the ocean.

USA Today recently ran an article on wastewater recycling and how effluent from sewage treatment plants can be treated and reused for irrigation, groundwater recharge or even drinking water.  They suggest (and Surfrider echos) that as the impacts of climate change become more apparent and clean, freshwater becomes more scarce, our society is going to have to stop wasting so much water and give serious consideration to all options for re-using and recycling water. See the USA Today graphic explaining treatment of water to prepare it for re-use alternatives below and link to the article here:  Florida's water worries prompt look at recycling.


Around the country Surfrider chapters are encouraging their communities to take the ‘waste’ out of ‘wastewater’ and to treat it like the valuable resource that it is.  At the end of last year, the San Diego Chapter scored a big victory when the City Council voted unanimously to approve Pure Water San Diego, a program which will significantly reduce wastewater discharges to the ocean and produce 83 million gallons per day of high quality drinking water.  Learn more here.

The San Luis Obispo Chapter has been making headway lately in getting the cities in their region to take a more integrated and less wasteful approach for protecting water supplies and managing waste.  The Chapter is a stakeholder in Morro Bay’s plans to build a new sewage treatment facility away from the coastal hazard zone, and they are advocating for options to recycle and reclaim water for nearby agricultural irrigation.  Nearby Pismo Beach is also giving serious consideration to recycling more of their wastewater to decrease discharge into the ocean and reduce the demand for imported water to the region.  Learn more about how the SLO Chapter is pushing for better regional water management on their website.

On the east coast, the Central Long Island and the Delaware Chapters are fighting campaigns to stop the construction of new ocean outfalls off the beach in Long Beach, NY and Rehoboth Beach, DE.  Both projects are proposed because of polluted conditions in bays where the current sewage  outfalls discharge.   In both cases, Surfrider is advocating for better treatment and beneficial re-use options rather than continuing the wasteful practices of dumping fresh water out to sea.  

Here are some water saving facts and tips to reduce your water footprint througout the year. By making these changes to our daily routines, we can all be a part of the global movement for clean water and make sure that every drop counts. Pledge today to conserve water by skipping your shower this World Water Day, March 22.