Blue Water Task Force
The Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) is the Surfrider Foundation’s water quality monitoring, education and advocacy program. It is utilized by our chapters and members to alert citizens and officials in their communities about water quality problems and to work toward solutions. BWTF has demonstrated success by raising public awareness of coastal water pollution levels and precipitating the establishment of state and local government water quality monitoring programs in many communities where the program has been implemented.
BWTF was established with the following objectives:
- to provide concerned citizens with the opportunity for hands-on involvement with an environmental problem solving effort;
- to gather coastal water samples on a regular basis to determine pollution patterns in the near shore environment;
- to raise public awareness regarding the extent and severity of coastal water pollution;
- to use the data collected to bring polluters into compliance; and
- to develop a model program that could influence national legislation and enforcement.
There are currently over 30 chapters in the US participating in the Blue Water Task Force. Surfrider volunteers are testing the water quality at beaches along the Atlantic, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico & Pacific Coasts, including the tropical waters of Puerto Rico and Hawaii. The Blue Water Task Force is able to measure bacteria levels at both marine and freshwater beaches and compare them to federal water quality standards established by the EPA to protect public health in recreational waters.
There is a lot of diversity amongst the Blue Water Task Force programs. Each chapter has been able to design and implement their water testing programs to best use their available resources and local needs. Some chapters collect water samples at their local beaches and run their own water testing labs. Some chapters partner with other coastal organizations such as universities, aquariums and watershed groups. Some chapters provide manpower to local beach monitoring programs by collecting water samples and delivering them to state or county run labs, and many chapters have water testing programs established in local schools. Check online to see if a Surfrider chapter near you is posting water quality data from your local beaches.
See Blue Water Task Force Annual Reports for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 for a summary of the results of testing by Surfrider chapters.
Also see Surfrider's Blue Water Task Force blog to learn more about how many different chapters are using their beach water testing programs to draw attention to beach pollution and work towards solutions.
An article Blue Water Task Force: Translating Science Into Action appeared in the July 2007 issue of Surfrider's publication Making Waves. This article highlights the BWTF program of Surfrider's San Mateo County, California chapter.
Safe Waters, Healthy Waters, A Guide for Citizen Groups on Bacteria Monitoring in Local Waterways from the Center for Watershed Protection is a very comprehensive and well-written document that explains the role of citizen science in helping to protect water quality. It contains a case study of one investigation performed by a Surfrider Foundation chapter under the Blue Water Task Force program.
Also see the article Pollution Source Tracking which provides several other examples of Surfrider chapters who have utilized the BWTF program to move beyond testing to identify and eliminate pollution sources.
This article is part of a series on Clean Water which looks at various threats to the water quality of our oceans, and the negative impacts polluted waters can have on the environment and human health.
For information about laws, policies, programs and conditions impacting water quality in a specific state, please visit Surfrider's State of the Beach report to find the State Report for that state, and click on the "Water Quality" indicator link.