Miami Chapter
Miami Chapter

Blue Water Task Force

Surfrider Foundation Miami Chapter volunteer water quality monitoring program


Surfrider’s Clean Water Initiative strives to protect water quality in local waterways and reduce pollution so it is safe to surf, swim and play in the ocean. The Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) is The Surfrider Foundation's volunteer water quality monitoring program.

Everyone should have access to clean water to surf, swim and play in.

The Surfrider Foundation Miami Chapter is taking a multi-tiered approach to tackle ocean pollution problems. We are testing the waters for bacteria, raising public awareness and finding real solutions to ocean pollution; solutions that restore healthy watersheds, protect local water supplies and keep pollution from reaching the ocean.

The main goal of the Surfrider Miami BWTF program is to fill in data gaps, improving the public’s knowledge of the safety of their beach water. As of 2020, water samples are being collected weekly at 10 locations, from Key Biscayne to Sunny Isles Beach.

At the lab we are testing for enterococci which are considered to be indicator bacteria for other bad bugs that might be in the water. 

Our results are shared with the local community (sign up here to receive water quality notifications) and can also be found live on Miami's reports and our Alexa App! Additionally, we have partnered with the Swimguide to host our water quality information on their dedicated mobile app.

We are seeking volunteers to join our BWTF team, to spread the workload of this citizen science project. Team members are needed to: collect beach water samples; process water samples in our SoBe BWTF lab; distribute weekly test results via social media, newsletters and podcasts. To join the BWTF team, contact the lab director Christi LeMahieu:


General Blue Water Task Force Information


Sick At the Beach? We Want To Know!

For questions or join the BWTF team, contact team leader Christi

For questions or join the BWTF team, contact team leader Christi LeMahieu: To report getting sick at the beach submit a report: Ocean Illness Form   Sign up to receive weekly water quality notifications: Alert Mailing List

Have you ever gotten sick after visiting the beach?

Now there’s a place to share your story and see where others are getting sick. Surfrider has created a crowd-sourced illness reporting tool which can be found here. This data will help with tracking ocean related illnesses and informing local health departments who otherwise would have no idea about the harm caused by water pollution. With this tool, anyone can easily provide basic info about how and where they got sick, allowing others to see where pollution hotspots are.  There is even a tool for setting up alerts, so that you can receive an email when someone reports an illness in your area.  As part of Surfrider’s Clean Water Program this new tool adds an additional layer to our efforts to alert the public to water quality problems and the risks of exposure to bacteria in the surf. Please share this new tool with your friends, or anyone who may have been exposed to polluted water, because a day at the beach shouldn't have to make you sick.

Polluted waters often contain many different disease-causing organisms (commonly referred to as pathogens) and surfers and swimmers are affected by both sewage-polluted water, which contains enteric pathogens (pathogens that live in human and animal digestive systems), and pathogens carried by urban runoff. The contraction of waterborne illnesses from these pathogens is often spread by the presence of these organisms in the water and inadvertent ingestion of the fecal or otherwise contaminated water. This can give a whole new meaning to having a “sick” surfing session.

Polluted beach water has been known to cause gastrointestinal illnesses such as the stomach flu, diarrhea, and vomiting, skin rashes, pinkeye, ear infections, meningitis, hepatitis A, encephalitis, staph infections (such as MRSA), parasitic illnesses caused cryptosporidiosis and leptospirosis, and even bizarre disease such as skin lesions.

Viruses are often the cause of swimming-associated diseases and typically result in the majority of cases of gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”), hepatitis A, respiratory illnesses, infections of the ear, nose, and throat. Gastroenteritis, which may also be caused by waterborne bacteria, can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach aches, nausea, headaches, and febrile (feverish) symptoms. Other types of microbial disease that can be contracted by watermen/women and beachgoers include salmonellosis, shigellosis, infection caused by E. coli as well as other infections caused by amoeba, protozoa, and parasites in recreational waters which can cause giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, amoebic dysentery, skin rashes, and pink eye. Urban runoff provides a whole new dimension as well through a “toxic cocktail” of herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, and other pollutants that may not be regulated or monitored by your public health department and they also cause health effects that are not fully understood. Epidemiological studies, such as The Beaches Study have found that “bathing in temperate recreational waters with known point sources of fecal contamination (such as domestic sewage or storm-drain runoff) has been associated with an increased risk for transmission of infectious diseases (including gastroenteritis, and febrile, respiratory, skin, eye and ear illnesses).”

Urban runoff and fecal bacteria tend to be higher in the oceans water after a rainy day, so it’s always a good idea to check with your local Blue Water Task Force and/or public health department before heading out into the water.

Note: If you feel you have gotten sick after exposure to polluted ocean water, you can report it at Surfrider’s Ocean Illness Reporting Tool.