So many of the outdoor activities we enjoy as part of the Southern California life style – be it surfing, swimming, ocean kayaking or standup paddle boarding – are affected by water quality. Unfortunately, water contamination frequently makes the news headlines in our region due to crossborder sewage and stormwater runoff – especially during rainy winter weather like what we are experiencing this week.
Thankfully, there is a new generation of young people who are getting involved in monitoring and testing the water quality along our coastline and sharing the results with the public. The Surfrider Foundation engages local students in a program called the Blue Water Task Force, which we support through our Environmental Champions initiative.
Students from Coronado and Imperial Beach high schools collect water samples from the local coastline and test them in their school lab. In the course of conducting the sample tests, students gain hands-on lab experience and get exposed to environmental science.
Hands-On Science Learning
According to a recent article published by the Coronado Times on students’ work, there is a lot of science involved:
“The process of testing the water starts at the beach, where one to two students collect samples of the water in plastic bags. This sample is then brought to the lab room at CHS (Coronado High School) to ensure that sterile procedures are followed and the sample does not become contaminated. Once the plastic bags reach the lab room, the bags are ripped open to continue with dilution of the sample. A chemical reagent is added to the sample, which tests for enterococcus bacteria. This bacteria is often found in the ocean from fecal matter in stormwater runoff.
After the reagent is added to the diluted water, the sample is then separated in a quanti-tray sealer where it is incubated for twenty-four hours. The following day, the students can then determine whether it is safe to go in the water. By putting the sample under ultraviolet light, the enterococcus bacteria, if any is found, would be seen as fluorescent.”
Click here to see the local water testing results.