by Jess DellaRossa
The environmental quality of our natural habitats has always been important to me. I grew up hiking the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana, so naturally the mountains call to me. When I moved to Oceanside in 2017, it took me a while to embrace the coast. I started picking up litter during the Saturday beach clean ups at the Oceanside Pier with Surfrider Foundation San Diego, but I wanted to get more involved. There are so many great opportunities to volunteer with Surfrider that fit my curiosities! Aside from my interest in ocean water quality and ecosystem health, I chose to work with Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) because of their willingness to expand their efforts to North County.
Community Science Water Quality Testing
Currently, BWTF volunteers collect coastal water quality samples on Thursday mornings across 10 beach and bay sites from Pacific Beach to Imperial Beach. These water samples are processed and analyzed by volunteers in one of the three labs for Enterococcus, a fecal indicator bacteria used to determine recreational water quality safety.
In addition to water quality testing, BWTF also focuses on education, advocacy and policy. We release the data for the Weekend Beach Report to alert citizens and local officials about coastal water quality issues and find solutions. We work directly with local water quality monitoring agencies to fill in data gaps and improve the public’s knowledge of the safety of their local beaches and bays.
Coastal Outreach and Education in North County
BWTF is committed to extend the program to North County in order to better understand the health of our coastal ecosystems across the county. In order to serve North County, we must establish a volunteer base and community ties before setting up a lab. To make this possible, we hosted two volunteer outreach events in North County last October.
We held the first workshop at Oceanside Pier, where we trained volunteers on how to properly collect water samples and gave talks on the importance of water quality and public health. At one of our monthly Moonlight Beach cleanups in Encinitas, we solicited feedback and recommendations from participants on which beaches they would like to see monitored and how they would continue to support these efforts. BWTF plans on hosting more events like this in the coming months. From this process we learned that the public, in addition to some scholastic and non-profit organizations, are interested in water quality monitoring in North County.
The data collected by BWTF is important to public health because we identify when it is safe to go in the water, as well as bring awareness to areas that need extra attention. There are over 72 miles of coastline in San Diego County, and the Department of Environmental Health’s resources are stretched thin. The more data we have, the better understanding of our local coastline’s health.
Moreover, 71% of the Earth’s surface is ocean! The ocean’s water quality directly affects things from climate change to our food sources. It is important to keep our marine ecosystems healthy in order to maintain our oceanic carbon sink, as well as produce oxygen for us to live.
Help Surfrider Foundation Open a North County Lab
What can you do? Help us identify and place a North County lab! If you know of any community members or teachers that are willing to host a lab, please let us know. We are also looking for volunteers in North County to help train new volunteers about the water testing process and its importance to our community. BWTF has funding to establish a lab space, however we will need funding to continue to support the lab after the initial year. If you are interested in volunteering or have questions, please email BWTF@surfridersd.org.
Virtual New Volunteer Orientation
We're hosting a virtual new volunteer orientation in June. During this hour, we will do a short meet and greet, review BWTF resources and current practices, and discuss the next steps for opening a new lab space in North County.
No matter your talent, strengths or interests, there are ways you can help us out!
Virtual New Volunteer North County Orientation
Wednesday, June 3, 7-8 PM