The State of Hawaii has more than 400 public beaches stretching along nearly 300 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline. Hawaii’s beachwater monitoring program is administered by the Clean Water Branch of the Hawaii Department of Health. The Oahu Chapter used to monitor and test Hawaii’s beaches but now works with the state to post its findings. The Clean Water Branch’s water quality data is available for all of 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.
The Oahu Chapter has re-started its Blue Water Task Force water quality testing efforts in 2015 and is beginning to sample beaches around the island. While efforts are currently focussed on the south shore the program is expected to expand in the coming year. To follow along with results please check in with the Oahu BWTF reporting page.
The Oahu Chapter also works with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and their annual “Testing the Waters Report,” which rates our beaches and water quality monitoring. To view their summary of Hawaii’s beach water quality, please read this report that they periodically update on their website.
In general, after heavy rains, it is recommended that people not go into the ocean for at least 24-48 hours because of all the polluted stormwater runoff that flows from our streets into the ocean. After 40 days of rain in 2006, 48 million gallons of raw sewage were discharged into Honolulu’s Ala Wai Canal, contaminating and closing beaches for weeks. Since then, the Oahu Chapter worked with city, state and federal representatives, in addition to other environmental groups, to set up a Wastewater Spill Committee to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
For further information regarding current water quality issues concerning Hawaii’s beaches, please view the Surfrider Foundation State of the Beach report. This report, similar in some sense to the NRDC’s, is a continually-updated assessment of the health of our Hawaii’s beaches; however, it will likely contain more up-to-date information. The National Surfrider Foundation has also put together a water quality and ocean illness reporting tool to help in alerting the public to water quality problems and the risks of exposure to bacteria in the surf. Note, this reporting tool can actually be used for any water body in the world.