2021 Vision Award Recipient

Blue Water Task Force
Surfrider Foundation

The Blue Water Task Force is Surfrider’s citizen science program that provides critical water quality information to protect public health at the beach. Since the inception of the Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) program more than 25 years ago, Surfrider volunteers have been out in their communities testing water quality at the beach. Now a large national network with nearly 55 chapter-led labs, the BWTF is measuring bacteria levels at more than 450 ocean, bay, estuary and freshwater sampling sites in coastal states across the country. BWTF water testing programs are designed for local community needs, mainly to fill in the gaps and extend the coverage of state and local agency beach programs. Surfrider citizen scientists are testing beaches that are not covered by agencies and we are monitoring potential sources of pollution, such as stormwater outlets, rivers and creeks that discharge onto the beach. The BWTF is also in operation year-round, providing public health protection through the off-season when lifeguards leave the beach and health officials stop collecting water samples, and year-round in tropical Hawaii and Puerto Rico which have no off-season. During 2019, 54 BWTF chapters collected and processed 7707 samples from 484 beaches.

BWTF chapters have also stepped up after natural disasters, e.g., hurricanes (Puerto Rico) and massive flooding (Hawaii), to assure local communities that both recreational waters and stream waters being used for drinking and bathing are safe.

While all testing was suspended for a few months during the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Surfrider has since developed new sampling and testing protocols to protect volunteer safety and prevent community spread of COVID-19. Since then, 28 BWTF labs have resumed testing with over 5000 tests performed during 2020.

All of Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force data can be easily accessed online, and meets the Open Data Standard for Recreational Water Quality to further increase the ease of access, interoperability and shareability of this important data. Visit bwtf.surfrider.org to see the breadth of beaches covered by the Blue Water Task Force. Data is also posted to https://www.theswimguide.org international website. In addition, BWTF chapters provide data to their local communities through local chapter websites and to the news media.



The National Water Quality Monitoring Council’s Vision Award recognizes a monitoring council or group that has demonstrated extraordinary vision and cooperation in the field of water quality monitoring on a local or regional level to enhance the management and protection of aquatic resources.