Blue Water Task Force, Water Quality
December 09 2019

More Water Testing Labs, More Beaches Tested in 2019

by Colleen Henn

The Blue Water Task Force is the Surfrider Foundation’s citizen science water testing program that provides critical water quality information to protect public health at the beach.  Surfrider chapters use this program to raise awareness of local pollution problems and to bring together communities to implement solutions. During 2019, the Blue Water Task Force operated over 50 labs across North America. 

Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force has experienced a great deal of growth during 2019, welcoming a cumulative ten additional labs, establishing new and expanding existing programs. The growth of the Blue Water Task Force translates to:

  • More citizen scientists 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

In 2019, we welcomed several new chapters to the Blue Water Task Force, including: 

Along with the completely new programs above, some of our existing programs expanded by adding new labs or relaunching programs in 2019:

A huge congratulations to all of our new Blue Water Task Force labs and to our existing labs and volunteers who continue to produce invaluable water quality information to protect public health in your communities. 

No matter where you live in the United States, you too can have local water quality information at your fingertips. See if one of Surfrider Foundation’s 50+ Blue Water Task Force labs are located near you, or use this online tool to access agency-provided beach water quality information in every coastal state.

 

Below are some highlights from these new and expanded programs~ 

Sebastian Inlet, Florida 

Increasing water quality concerns due to stormwater runoff and sewage infrastructure failures has spurred four new Blue Water Task Force Programs in Florida in the last three years - Palm Beach County, Miami, Broward County, and most recently, Sebastian Inlet. 

Thanks to the passion of a local chapter member and avid SUP Surfer, Ryan Dadds, the Sebastian Inlet Chapter began sampling in May of 2019 at several ocean and intracoastal locations in the Brevard County area in an effort to provide more water quality information to local swimmers, surfers, paddlers, and beach goers. 

Seeing the effects of water pollution where I live in Florida with runoff from the farming and sugar industries as well as from sewage and septic leaks has really opened my eyes to our water quality crisis. I wanted to do something to bring others’ attention to this, but felt helpless….

And the results have not exactly eased community concerns.. 

At one point or another, we have found bacteria at all of our testing sites. These results have been quite surprising and have had an overwhelming response within our community. People are interested and want to know where the sources of the pollution are coming from and how they can put a stop to it.

(Quotes above featured in recent Kialoa Talkstory featuring Ryan Dadds, read the full article here)

The Sebastian Inlet chapter has plans to collaborate with other local non-profits to expand their capacity to sample more beaches, and deliver this information to local government officials. Click here to see Sebastian Inlet’s most recent data. And if you live in the Brevard County area, contact Ryan to get involved or sign up to receive local water quality alerts. 

Sonoma Coast, California 

While Sonoma County is well-known for its vineyards, the county’s coastline has a lot to offer with many picturesque beaches, fed by rivers, creeks, and streams. These beaches are unfortunately threatened by water pollution, much of which starts upstream. 

Historically, the Sonoma Coast Blue Water Task Force sampled a number of ocean locations on the Sonoma Coast to provide information for ocean-users. After a lapse in testing, the program was recently relaunched in partnership with Piner High School with the focus shifted to providing water quality information for inland streams to monitor potential upstream sources of beach water pollution.  

The Blue Water Task Force’s sampling methods have been worked into Piner High School’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum. Surfrider Foundation volunteers collect water samples which are then delivered to the lab at Piner High for the students to process. The Sonoma Coast Chapter hopes to expand sampling to more coastal locations to provide more water quality information and educational opportunities for students and adults alike.

Click here for the full reach of the Sonoma Coast’s Blue Water Task Force results, and Contact Sarah if you live in the area and are interested in participating in the Sonoma Coast BWTF program. 

New Hampshire

While New Hampshire may only have 18 miles of coastline, year-round recreational users and even State officials are concerned about water quality conditions. The New Hampshire Chapter was offered a unique opportunity to partner with the State’s Department of Environmental Services to extend their seasonal monitoring program which typically takes place between Memorial Day and Labor Day, into the colder, off-season, months. 

Starting in September, volunteers from the New Hampshire Chapter are collecting water quality samples at two popular residential beaches, Sawyer’s Beach and North Hampton State Beach. All samples are processed at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services lab in Concord, NH facility. 

The New Hampshire Chapter is stoked to be one of only a handful of chapters nationwide who participate directly in their State or County’s beach monitoring program. To check out the water quality at New Hampshire beaches, click hereContact Chris if you live in the area and are curious to get involved. 

Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Vancouver Island is known for its beautiful diverse beaches, ease of access to open space, and ample year-round recreational opportunities in and out of the water. In Vancouver Island, the local health department carries out beach monitoring during summer months when recreational use is at its highest, but thousands of people enjoy Vancouver’s abundant waters during the off-season as well. In response,  the Vancouver Island Chapter relaunched its Blue Water Task Force program in April 2019 which seeks to engage local citizen scientists and protect public health at the beach by providing water quality information to year-round recreationalists so they can make informed decisions about water recreation. 

To start, the Chapter is sampling a handful of sites on a monthly basis, but hopes to expand their testing to accommodate some of the Chapter’s historically sampled locations. Click here to see the Vancouver Island Chapter’s water quality results and contact Brian if you live in the area and are interested in getting involved. 

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