The goal of the Clean Water Initiative is to reduce and eliminate ocean pollution so it is safe to surf, swim and play in the ocean.  Surfrider chapters and activists are building awareness of local water pollution problems and advocating for solutions that can protect local water supplies and prevent pollution from reaching the ocean. 

Chapters support the Clean Water Initiative by engaging with their communities through clean water programs: Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG). They also run campaigns against projects that will cause pollution and advocate for wise management of our land and water resources.

What is the problem?

The urbanization of our coasts has altered and polluted the natural water cycle. In undeveloped, natural areas, rainfall is absorbed by soil and plants, percolates through the soil to underground aquifers or flows into local streams. Rooftops, pavement and other impervious surfaces in urban and residential areas prevent rain from soaking into the ground and instead direct polluted runoff straight towards the ocean. At the same time, we are wasting valuable freshwater by using it once, mixing it with our waste, and then discharging it, partially treated, into the ocean. This is threatening the long-term security of our water supply and polluting our coastal waters.  Learn more by watching the Cycle of Insanity film.

Sources of Beach & Ocean Pollution


What are the solutions?

Our efforts to protect local water supplies, manage waste and prevent pollution are all connected.   Surfrider advocates for practical and environmentally sound solutions that can restore the water cycle and natural functions of coastal ecosystems to protect local water supplies and prevent pollution from reaching the ocean.  This holistic, watershed-based approach also helps support resilient and healthy coastal communities and economies.

A watershed is a geographic area in which all sources of water, including rainfall, snow melt, streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and ground water, all drain to a common surface water body, generally the ocean in coastal areas.   


Ecosystem Services Provided by Healthy, Naturally Functioning Watersheds

  • Hold rain and absorb water into the ground for flood control
  • Soil & plants filter out pollutants from water
  • Water percolates through the soil to re-charge ground water and maintain stream flows
  • Transport of sand to the beach by natural rivers & streams
  • Provide wildlife habitat
  • Carbon sequestration by plants & soil

Properly functioning land-based (terrestrial) and aquatic ecosystems in healthy watersheds can sponge up and clean rain water and urban runoff, reducing the impacts of flooding and allowing the water to soak into the ground for our use later. Surfrider also advocates for water conservation measures, grey-water reuse, and wastewater recycling to minimize ocean discharges from sewage treatment plants and to protect local freshwater supplies. The new Clean Water Initiative brochure shows how these solutions can be applied across a coastal watershed.

To be most effective, government agencies need to work together, and with NGOs and the private sector, to support an integrated watershed approach that helps make every property a part of the solution to pollution.

There are many different ways that Surfrider chapters, activists or any concerned citizen can get involved and help protect clean water in your community.  From collecting a water sample at the beach, to making our yards more Ocean Friendly, or pitching in on campaigns to improve large-scale water management projects, we all have a responsibility to stop wasting water and to keep pollution from reaching the ocean.

Read more about the Clean Water Initiative in action.  This case study of the Ventura County Chapter, describes their multi-pronged efforts to promote clean water and restore ecosystem function throughout the Ventura River watershed.


Clean Water Initiative.  Hand-out

Clean Water Initiative Brochure: print-ready version : Surfrider's on-line coastal knowlege resource.  Topics relevant to water pollution and clean water solutions available here.

The Cycle of Insanity.  Watch this film to learn more about how we have polluted the natural water cycle and how we can take a  holistic approach to restore coastal watersheds, protect local water supplies and keep pollution from reaching the ocean.

Ocean Illness Reporting Tool. You can track incidents of skin infections, gastro-intestinal symptoms and other ocean illnesses at your local beaches with this on-line, sickness reporting tool.

Stay current with Surfrider's Coastal Blog.  Clean Water Topics: Water Quality, Blue Water Task Force, Ocean Friendly Gardens & Know Your H2O

Clean Water Contacts

Blue Water Task Force, Ocean Friendly Gardens, sewage treatment & clean water campaigns:  Mara Dias

Beachapedia, wastewater recycling, desalination projects & Ocean Illness Form:  Katie Day