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Surfrider Report Reveals Impacts of Over 900 Billion Gallons of Untreated Sewage Released Into US Surface Waters Every Year

64% of Beaches Tested Failed to Meet State Health Standards at Least Once in 2023

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif., May 22, 2024 -- As Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, the Surfrider Foundation is releasing its 2023 Clean Water Report. This comprehensive annual report describes the threats from stormwater runoff and untreated sewage polluting our ocean, waves, and beaches, as well as the efforts of Surfrider's nationwide network of volunteers to test coastal waters and mitigate pollution through their Blue Water Task Force and Ocean Friendly Gardens program. The report also features Surfrider's top ten priority polluted beaches where volunteers are measuring bacteria levels that could be putting public health at risk. Case studies illustrate how Surfrider's chapter network is leveraging their clean water programs to advocate for pollution solutions to help keep you and your family safe at the beach.

 

Since the Surfrider Foundation was founded in 1984, improving coastal water quality has been one of the organization's top priorities. Through their Clean Water Initiative, Surfrider chapter volunteers strive to protect water quality and reduce pollution by building public awareness of water pollution problems and advocating for solutions to protect clean water and healthy coastal ecosystems.

Nearly 10 trillion gallons of untreated stormwater runoff flow into U.S. waterways every year, carrying a cocktail of pollutants including road dust, oil, animal waste, fertilizers, and other chemicals. Years of neglect and underfunding have also left America's outdated wastewater infrastructure in disrepair, threatening coastal water quality by discharging raw and undertreated sewage into our local waterways and ocean at a rate of over 900 billion gallons every year. This untreated sewage can contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites that make people sick with gastrointestinal symptoms, rashes, skin and eye infections, flu-like symptoms, and worse. Sewage and stormwater runoff also pollute waterways with excess nutrients, wreaking havoc on coastal ecosystems by fueling harmful algal blooms that put human health at risk and result in fish kills and coral reef die-offs.

"Everyone deserves access to clean water to surf, swim, and play in. That's why Surfrider advocates for strong laws and sufficient funding to monitor and protect water quality. We ensure that people have access to the information they need to protect themselves and the health of their families when recreating at the beach and in our coastal waterways," explains Mara Dias, Surfrider's Water Quality Initiative Senior Manager. "When we see information gaps in government testing programs that leave public health unprotected, we seek to meet those community needs with our Blue Water Task Force water quality monitoring program. And when more collaborative approaches fail, the Surfrider Foundation has the expertise to bring issues to the courts to ensure proper enforcement of the Clean Water Act to protect clean water for all people."

Priority Beaches - Vertical

The Surfrider Foundation is not only testing the water, but it is also leading the nationwide Ocean Friendly Gardens program that is educating communities and local officials on the actions that can be taken in our yards and public spaces to reduce the amount of polluted runoff that flows into our local waterways and out to the ocean.

The growing threats from climate change to our coasts, including sea level rise and more frequent extreme weather events that generate massive amounts of stormwater, are already causing water infrastructure failures and sewage spills with increasing frequency. Significant investments need to be made now to prepare our coastal communities to become more resilient and to better manage our water resources. This is necessary to protect the health of more than 100 million beachgoers who flock to U.S. beaches every year and the booming coastal tourism economy that contributes $140 billion to our national economy.

About the Surfrider Foundation

The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world's ocean, waves, and beaches for all people through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over one million supporters, activists, and members, with more than 200 volunteer-led chapters and student clubs in the U.S., and more than 800 victories protecting our coasts. Learn more at surfrider.org.