The San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation Tuesday released its annual 2020 Clean Water Report which found that 21% of samples tested indicated high bacteria levels that exceed water quality criteria.

The majority of the water samples that failed to meet health standards were collected from freshwater sources, such as rivers, creeks and marshes, which are influenced by stormwater runoff, or at beaches near these outlets. These results are consistent with national trends, which show that stormwater runoff is the number one cause of beach closures and swimming advisories in the U.S.

Despite challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Surfrider network was able to process 5,796 water samples collected from 501 coastal sampling sites. While the Blue Water Task Force attained fewer samples in 2020, the program expanded by covering more beaches, according to Mara Dias, the foundation’s Water Quality Manager.

“Sewage spills and infrastructure failures release over 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage into surface waters every year,” Dias said. “As people get ready to head to the beach this summer, it’s important for communities to know where it’s safe to surf, swim and play. That’s why we’re working across the nation to test the waters to protect clean water and public health.”

Individual results of the task force’s testing are available at bwtf.surfrider.org.

The Surfrider Foundation bills itself as a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches.

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