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The Surfrider Foundation today released its annual Clean Water Report to protect public health and clean water as beaches across the nation start to reopen during the current phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report features case studies and the collective results from Surfrider’s Blue Water Task Force, the largest volunteer-run beach water testing program in the country. It also highlights outcomes from Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program, which provides landscaping solutions to protect clean water and support resilient coasts.

Each year, an estimated 180 million people visit beaches across the U.S. to enjoy some of the nation’s most outstanding public areas. Surfrider’s goal is to ensure that coastal waters are safe for recreation and that beachgoers have the necessary information to protect their health. To achieve that goal, more than 50 Blue Water Task Force labs across the country monitor water quality year-round so the public can find out where it’s safe to surf, swim or play in the water. Last year, the Surfrider network processed 7,707 water samples collected from 484 sampling sites.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, many beaches across the U.S. have been closed in recent weeks and are slowly beginning to reopen with new guidelines in place. While Surfrider has temporarily suspended its Blue Water Task Force operations to protect the health of volunteers and the public, these closures have highlighted the important intersection between beachgoing and public health. In fact, more than 20,000 health advisories are issued annually in the U.S. to protect beachgoers from exposure to bacteria and other illness-causing pathogens in the water. 

“In areas like Chicago, Illinois, where industrial discharges are polluting important recreational areas in Lake Michigan, and Florida, where toxic algae blooms are devastating the coasts, Surfrider’s work to protect clean water is more critical than ever,” said Surfrider’s Water Quality Manager, Mara Dias. “Our chapters tackle regional water quality issues by testing for pollution, building ocean-friendly solutions, and informing the public of where it’s safe to surf, swim and play in the ocean. We look forward to continuing our water testing programs as soon as health officials deem it safe to resume these efforts.”  

Surfrider’s Clean Water Report also highlights case studies of regional efforts to solve water pollution issues in Chicago, Illinois; Isla Vista, California; and Miami and St. Petersburg, Florida. These studies provide valuable examples of how communities can drive solutions to pollution problems and protect public health. They also show how local action can support the ocean recreation and tourism sector, which contributes $126 billion annually to our nation’s GDP and provides 2.4 million jobs.

The Surfrider network is not only testing the water, but it’s also leading the Ocean Friendly Gardens program across the nation. This program provides easy ways to transform yards and public spaces into idyllic gardens that protect water quality. With many Americans under some form of stay-at-home order because of COVID-19, it also offers a safe way for individuals to take positive action in their own yards. Last year, more than 75 Ocean Friendly Gardens were installed in coastal communities by the Surfrider network to reduce urban runoff pollution and protect clean water.

Visit Surfrider.org to read Surfrider’s Clean Water Report and learn how you can get involved in helping to protect clean water and healthy beaches.

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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 through a powerful 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 170 volunteer-led chapters and student clubs in the U.S., and more than 700 victories protecting our coasts. Learn more at surfrider.org.