03 • 01 • 2019

Surfrider Foundation Fights for Clean Water

By Mara Dias

Surfrider’s Clean Water Initiative strives to protect water quality in local waterways and reduce ocean pollution so it is safe to surf, swim and play in the ocean.

Improving coastal water quality has been one of the Surfrider Foundation’s top priorities ever since we were founded back in 1984 by a group of dedicated surfers in Malibu who were concerned about the effects of development and pollution on their favorite surf break. 

Unfortunately, water quality at our beaches is threatened by pollution from urban and agricultural runoff, sewage and septic systems, and waste discharged into the ocean by industry. These threats result in 20,000 health advisories each year in the U.S. to protect beachgoers from exposure to bacteria and other illness-causing pathogens. Pollution also fuels harmful algal blooms that endanger public health and wreak havoc on coastal ecosystems. 

Despite these dramatic threats to public health and coastal communities, the current federal administration is scaling back funding and enforcement of water quality regulations and programs. Large and sweeping cuts in funding for the EPA and NOAA—the federal agencies responsible for protecting clean water and healthy coasts—are also being considered. This includes the proposed total elimination of the BEACH Act, which provides critical support to coastal states to monitor water quality at beaches. Surfrider activists are in Washington, D. C. this very week asking Congress to Stand Up for Clean Water and to push back against the deregulation agenda of the current administration.

Also at risk is the Clean Water Act. This landmark piece of environmental legislation has been protecting clean water and public health at the coast and in upland watersheds for over 40 years.  A new rule has just been issued by President Trump’s administration that limits the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and would put the drinking water of millions of Americans at risk by wiping away protections for seasonal streams. Tens of millions of acres of wetlands are also at risk of losing protection under this new ‘Dirty Water Rule’.  Resilient coastlines depend on healthy wetlands to absorb floodwaters and filter pollution.  Learn how you can join Surfrider and our allies in telling EPA that they should be doing more to protect clean water, not less.

Surfrider volunteers are also out working in their local communities to build awareness of water quality issues and bringing together communities to solve their pollution problems. For instance, there are nearly 50 volunteer-run Blue Water Task Force programs nationwide monitoring water quality at the beach and providing the information necessary to protect public health and identify pollution problems.  Through Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Garden’s program, chapters are also educating their local communities about the problems created by urban runoff and traditional landscaping practices. Ocean Friendly Gardens instead offer beautiful, inexpensive and natural solutions that can be applied on any property to help protect clean water locally.  

For inspiration, follow the below links to hear the personal stories of how Surfrider volunteers and activists are taking action to protect clean water locally:

What will you do to Stand Up for Clean Water?  Learn more here.