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 South Sound Chapter tests eight recreational beaches and public waterways in Puget Sound near Tacoma, Washington. Surfrider volunteers collect the water samples and deliver them to the Tacoma Public School's Science and Math Institute (SAMi), where a high school science teacher and his students analyze them in the lab and record the results. All BWTF water quality data are posted online and available to the public at Surfrider.org. (http://www.surfrider.org/blue-water-task-force/chapter/37)
The Chapter coordinates with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department's Swimming Beaches program and the Washington State Department of Ecology's BEACH Program to ensure that their sampling protocols align with the agency programs. During the summer recreation season, the County Health Department monitors high-use beaches. The Chapter’s sampling schedule from September to May helps to extend the County’s regular beach testing program into the colder months when recreational users such as divers and paddlers are still very active.
The chapter alerts the State and County when the BWTF program detects high bacteria levels at their sampling sites, and the County goes back out, retests, and issues swimming advisories and beach closures if the results still exceed health standards. The program provides a great collaborative opportunity for an educational institution, Surfrider volunteers, and local health agencies to work together to provide better protection for beachgoers and water recreational enthusiasts in Tacoma.