Surfrider Foundation’s Clean Water Report Reveals High Bacteria Levels at Popular U.S. Beaches 

Report shows that nearly a quarter of water samples tested across the nation indicate high levels of bacteria that exceed water quality criteria

San Clemente, Calif., May 26, 2022 - The Surfrider Foundation today released its annual 2021 Clean Water Report to protect public health and clean water for all people. The report highlights Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program and results from the Blue Water Task Force, the largest volunteer-run beach water testing program in the country. The data from Surfrider’s water quality program reveals that nearly a fourth of water samples tested nationwide measured high bacteria levels that exceed state health standards for recreational water. 

In 2021, 47 of the Surfrider’s Blue Water Task Force labs tested 8,532 water samples collected from 478 distinct sampling sites.
Surfrider’s results revealed that 71% showed low bacteria levels, 9% had medium bacteria levels, and 20% measured high bacteria levels that exceed water quality criteria, or Beach Action Values, set by each state to protect public health in recreational waters. 

“Hundreds of millions of people visit and recreate at U.S. beaches every year,” said Surfrider’s Water Quality Initiative Senior Manager, Mara Dias. “However, what people may not realize is that sewage spills and infrastructure failures release over 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage into surface waters annually. That’s why we’re working across the nation to test the waters so communities know where it’s safe to surf, swim and play and to protect clean ocean water for all people.”

Surfrider’s Clean Water Report data reveals chronic pollution problems and locations where local chapters are leading efforts to restore clean water. The report also highlights ten priority beaches from the East Coast, West Coast, Puerto Rico and Hawaiʻi where Surfrider chapters are consistently measuring high bacteria levels that exceed state health standards. Surfrider volunteers test beaches that are typically not covered by state and local agencies, and monitor potential sources of pollution, such as stormwater outlets, rivers, and creeks that discharge onto the beach. Communities can find out how safe their local waterways are by checking the results of the Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force labs across the country.

The Surfrider network is not only testing the water, but it is also leading the nationwide Ocean Friendly Gardens program to solve pollution problems caused by stormwater and urban runoff. This sustainable landscaping and educational program helps to inform communities about how to protect and conserve clean water and reduce local climate change impacts. 

Visit to read Surfrider’s Clean Water Report and learn how to get involved and help protect clean water and healthy beaches for the future. 


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 190 volunteer-led chapters and student clubs in the U.S., and more than 700 victories protecting our coasts. Learn more at