The Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) is the Surfrider Foundation’s citizen science program which provides valuable water quality information to beach communities, raises awareness of local water pollution problems and works collaboratively with local stakeholders to implement solutions.
Surfrider’s network of 30+ volunteer-run BWTF labs measure bacteria levels at ocean and bay beaches and in freshwater sources, and compare them to the national water quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health in recreational waters.
The San Luis Obispo (SLO) BWTF began 2013 as a small water testing program with two volunteers who conducted weekly sampling at two sites. Throughout the year, the Chapter’s BWTF Coordinator built a team of dedicated water samplers and testers that are out monitoring eleven sites on a weekly basis. Their lab is set up at the Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach, conveniently located for most of their sampling sites at the mouth of the San Luis Obispo Creek.
The Chapter is monitoring popular ocean beaches where there are known water quality concerns and within the freshwater creeks that discharge onto these beaches. They’ve also set their sampling schedule to compliment the SLO County Health Department’s beach monitoring program. The County samples on Mondays, and the Chapter tests every Thursday. Go to the BWTF website to view a map of the Chapter's sampling sites and their water quality data.
In 2013, the SLO BWTF team developed an illustrated training manual and worked with the County to assure their lab was up to adequate quality control specifications. The manual can be downloaded from SLO’s BWTF Local Info page. Monthly program updates are also posted on the SLO Chapter’s website.
The Chapter has also begun to reach out into the community to increase public awareness of the chronically polluted water conditions that they have been measuring at some of their local beaches. The Chapter is acting as a catalyst to bring together local agencies, stakeholders and research institutions to seek funding to perform a source-tracking watershed study at Old Port Beach. Situated between Avila Beach and the Port San Luis/Harford Pier, this beach is regularly monitored by the County, but often fails to meet bacteria health standards. There are several possible sources of bacteria at this beach including human and dog activity on the beach, sea birds, commercial fishing and processing activities at and near the Harford Pier, and a large resident population of seals and sea lions.
The Chapter has also just started their own watershed study in the San Luis Obispo Creek. Over the last year, 50% of the samples they collected at the mouth of the Creek in Avila Beach exceeded bacteria health standards. The Chapter has added 4 new sites within the last 2.5 miles of the Creek and will sample all Creek sites weekly for a 30-week period from April to October, 2014. The goal of this watershed study is to begin compiling data that will allow the Chapter to determine how far up the creek the high bacteria levels extend and to hopefully zero in on the source or sources of pollution.