10 Simple things individuals can do to help improve beachwater quality
veryone can help reduce beach water pollution by reducing
the amount of water he or she sends to sewage treatment plants that have
the potential to overflow, using best management practices to reduce polluted
runoff, and disposing of boating waste properly. Individuals can also make
a difference by becoming educated and voicing their desire for good, healthy
- Conserve water. Conserve the amount of water you use at home. Extra
water overwhelms sewage treatment plants and contributes to raw sewage overflows.
1) Do not let the water run unnecessarily when brushing your teeth, shaving,
or washing dishes: save 9-25 gallons each time. 2) Install a displacement
device in your toilet such as a small plastic bottle, or install a low-flush
toilet: save thousands of gallons annually. 3) Install water conservation
devices on your faucets and shower: save 50 percent of water previously
used. 4) Use a bucket and sponge instead of a hose when washing your car:
save over 100 gallons.
- Decrease toilet flushing. Try not to flush your toilet during heavy
rains. This will reduce the amount of water and waste going to sewage treatment
plants. Heavy rains can overwhelm treatment plants and sewage is then diverted
to outfall points that discharge raw sewage directly into the ocean or bay.
- Maintain septic systems. Monitor your tank yearly and have a reputable
contractor remove sludge and scum every three to five years to prevent solids
from escaping the absorption system. Fecal matter from malfunctioning septic
systems can contaminate beaches.
- Curb your pets. Pick up animal waste when walking your pet and dispose
of it in the garbage to reduce animal waste in polluted storm water runoff.
- Practice proper lawn care. Use natural fertilizers such as compost
on your garden and minimize use of pesticides. Landscape with natural vegetation
rather than lawns, which require fertilizers and pesticides. This can reduce
the amount of runoff and pollution.
- Practice proper marine and recreational boating-wastes disposal. Dispose
of your boat sewage in onshore sanitary facilities. Don't dump sewage or
trash overboard. Boating wastes discharged into coastal waters can be a
significant cause of high fecal coliform concentrations.
- Learn about the water quality at local beaches. Ask your local health
official: 1) What are the sources of pollution affecting the waters where
you swim? 2) What sort of water-quality monitoring is performed at these
beaches? 3) Are beaches always closed when monitoring shows that the bacterial
standard is exceeded? 4) What is the current status of these waters (are
they closed or open), and what warning signs can you look for?
- Choose your beaches carefully. Whenever possible, swim at the beaches
that your research shows have the cleanest waters or are carefully monitored
with strict closure or advisory procedures in effect. Beaches adjacent to
open ocean waters, and beaches that are removed from urban areas, generally
pose less of a health risk than beaches in developed areas or in enclosed
bays and harbors with little water circulation. Stay away from beaches with
visible discharge pipes and avoid swimming at urban beaches after a heavy
- Wade or bathe without submerging your head. If you feel there is a
possibility that a local beach is polluted, do not put your head in the
water. By avoiding beach water ingestion, you will significantly reduce
your chance of contracting a swimming-associated illness. Try to keep children
from splashing in water you suspect is polluted.
- Support local, state, and federal legislation that promotes the cleanup
of pollution sources. Write to your Congressperson and the Senators of your
state; let them know you support clean water and safe beaches. SUPPORT policies
which stop new hookups to the system without adequate infrastructure improvement
From Testing the Waters, Volume VI, National Resources Defense
Council, July 1996.