Oahu Chapter

Clean Water

Blue Water Task Force

Surfrider Foundation deploys the power of citizen science to gather data about bacteria levels present in ocean water at local beaches. Every two weeks, volunteers go to 17 beaches across the island to collect and share the data. VIEW DATA HERE.

Stay Informed – Sign up to receive bi-weekly BWTF reports

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This program exists to alert citizens and officials in their communities about water quality problems and to work toward solutions. If you want to volunteer to become a citizen scientist, e-mail our BWTF Coordinator Dan Amato at bwtf@oahu.surfrider.org.

What do we test for?
We test for enterococcus, which is a bacteria that naturally occurs in the intestines of warm-blooded animals – mammals and birds. Enterococcus is a fecal-indicator bacteria, frequently used to measure recreational water safety across the country and around the world.

Enterococcus does not directly cause human illness.

When enterococcus is present in the water, it suggests that fecal contamination may have occurred and other pathogens, viruses, or bacteria may be present in the water that can cause sickness.  Enterococcus is therefore measured to indicate the risk of getting sick from other illness-causing pollutants in the water. 

Swimming in contaminated water can lead to recreational water illness, with symptoms including gastrointestinal illness, ear infections, skin rashes, and potentially worse. Children and people suffering from autoimmune disorders run a higher of getting sick after swimming in polluted waters.

BWTF data supplements the work of the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH). The DOH Clean Water Branch’s water quality data is available to the public.  For more information, or to report a spill, go to the Clean Water Branch’s website or simply call the Clean Water Branch at 808-586-4309.

Can you surf after it rains?

TIP: Do not go in the water for up to 72 hours after a big rainfall. These rain events cause upstream waste, pathogens, and toxins to flow into our ocean and increases your risk of infection and illness.

Not all areas are created equal. Some places are worse due to their proximity to storm drains and land-based outflows, like Ala Moana Bowls. If you do enter the water after a rain, make sure you wash off with fresh water as soon as you get out and take a shower when you get home. More information HERE and HERE.


One of the greatest sources of ocean pollution in Hawaiʻi are cesspools. A cesspool is an underground hole, generally with no lining at all, from 12 to 20 feet deep with a concrete cap on top.
There are approximately 88,000 cesspools in Hawaii that release 53 Million gallons per day of raw sewage into our groundwater and threaten public and environmental health. The danger of cesspools is exacerbated by heavy rainfall and flooding.
The State of Hawaii now requires all cesspools to be upgraded or closed before January 1, 2050 under Act 125. There is also an up to $10,000 tax credit available for homeowners who upgrade by December 31, 2030 under Act 120. 

More details on cesspools at:
“Cesspools in Hawaii” – Department of Health Wastewater Branch
“Cesspools in Hawaii” –  EPA  Resources
“Cesspools in Paradise” – Hawaii Sea Grant”

Check out WAI Clean Water, which works to directly to eliminate cesspools from Hawaii.

Through the Wave