Government is Scaling Back Water Quality Protections. Surfers are Picking up the Slack.

Photo: A surfer rides a wave against the industrial backdrop of Lake Michigan. (Credit: Mike Killion/Courtesy of Surfrider)

Decades ago, California surfers decided to fight coastal pollution. Today, their massive network of citizen scientists is monitoring water quality in places the government doesn’t.

In 1984, a small group of California surfers were fed up with the development and water pollution at their favorite break, Malibu’s Surfrider Beach. They took their environmental concerns to California State Parks officials — and prevailed. The Surfrider Foundation was born.

Since then, the nonprofit has kept its focus on improving coastal water quality. And for more than 25 years now, one of its most successful efforts has been a massive citizen science project called the Blue Water Task Force. It’s the largest volunteer-run beach water testing program in the country.

Every day, pollution from urban and agricultural runoff, sewage, animal waste and industrial discharges threaten water quality at American beaches. These threats result in 20,000 health advisories each year in the U.S. to protect beachgoers from exposure to bacteria and other illness-causing pathogens. The pollution also fuels harmful algal blooms that endanger public health and wreak havoc on coastal ecosystems.

Citizen scientists work with the Blue Water Task Force to collect water samples all along U.S. coasts. Those results are shared with the public, so people know if their […]

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Government is Scaling Back Water Quality Protections. Surfers are Picking up the Slack.
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Government is Scaling Back Water Quality Protections. Surfers are Picking up the Slack.
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For over 25 years, Surfrider Foundation has run a citizen science project, the Blue Water Task Force - the largest volunteer beach water program in the USA.
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