In response to the growing concern about the quality of our coastal waters and how it can affect the public’s health and enjoyment of the nation’s beaches, Surfrider Foundation created the Blue Water Task Force in 1990.

This volunteer-based water quality monitoring, education and advocacy program was founded to alert citizens and officials about water quality problems and work toward solutions. The Blue Water Task Force precipitated the establishment of state and local government water quality monitoring programs in many communities, and since the passage of the BEACH Act in 2000, it continues to fill in data gaps, improving the public’s knowledge of the safety of their beach water. Now, with the Beach Grants Program at risk of losing all of its federal funding dollars we need community testing more than ever to ensure the health of beachgoers around the country.

To help make sure your day at the beach does not make you sick, the Surfrider Foundation and Emergen-C Blue are releasing the Second Annual Blue Water Task Force Annual Report to share water quality results from the Foundation’s volunteer-run water testing labs. Below is a summary of the 2012 report’s top findings:

#1: 18% of the water test results showed high bacteria levels.
While 70% of the tests came back with low bacteria counts, 18% of the tests failed to meet national water quality standards set by the EPA to protect public health in recreational waters. These results are comparable to our program-wide findings in 2011. High bacteria levels indicate fecal contamination and the presence of pathogens, or disease causing organisms, that can cause illness.

#2: Freshwater sources impacted by storm water yielded the greatest amount of high bacteria samples.
The majority of samples that yielded high bacteria counts came from testing locations where freshwater sources drain the landscape or at beaches near these types of outlets. This trend is consistent with NRDC’s Testing The Waters report, which identifies polluted storm water runoff as the largest known source of beach water pollution.

#3: Growth in monitoring programs like the Blue Water Task Force helps identify water pollution problems.
The total number of test results recorded in 2012 was up 42% from 2011. This growth demonstrates both increased testing as well as better chapter use of Surfrider Foundation’s website to report and share information on the status of their local beaches.

As the long-term prospects for government funded beach water testing and public notification programs becomes more uncertain, volunteer programs like the Blue Water Task Force will become increasingly important in coastal communities around the country in providing basic information on the cleanliness of beach water, protecting the beach-going public from exposure to polluted water, and identifying problem areas that need to be cleaned up.

Learn more about what the Surfrider Foundation is doing to ensure public funding for beach water testing programs continues.

Sources: Surfrider Foundation and Emergen-C®, San Clemente, CA (May 20, 2013)

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