Kauai Chapter

BWTF (Water Quality Monitoring)

If the water is brown, turn around…too much bacteria, chemicals, dead animals, sharp debris and sharks.

Ocean and nearshore waters around Kauai are monitored on a regular basis by the Clean Water Branch of Hawaii’s Department of Health and by the Blue Water Task Force of the Kauai Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. Both organizations collect samples in similar ways and test for Enterococcus bacteria concentrations using the exact same method approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The DOH and Surfrider monitor different types of beaches and coastal recreational waters on Kauai to provide more extensive water-quality information to inform safe beachgoing. DOH collects water samples at popular ocean beaches, while Surfrider collects at popular surfbreaks or in estuaries where canal, stream or river water meets the ocean at the beach. The latter sites are extremely popular places for children to play in the water but the water is often polluted.

While DOH chronic-water pollution warning signs have been posted at Gillin’s Beach (at Mahaulepu), Hanamaulu Beach Park and Niumalu Beach Park, many more signs are needed to inform the public about the health risk from swimming in polluted waters and to warn them to stay out.

Working together, Surfrider and the DOH must identify polluted waters and make sure that residents and visitors alike are aware of potential health threats at the beach. The DOH can then identify the sources of pollution and take action to eliminate them. We need to ensure that the health of anyone enjoying the beach or our coastal waters here on Kauai is safe and protected.

Dr. John P. Alderete, Ph.D., is head of the Blue Water Task Force of the Kauai Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation

The Blue Water Task Force is our water quality testing program. It is comprised of a group of individuals who, on the second Saturday morning of the month, paddle out to various surf spots or go to streams on the island, and collect a water sample to be tested later in our lab. We test for Enterococcus bacteria that indicate contamination from feces of warm-blooded animals, especially humans. It is the standard test for both the Hawaii Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

We also test some of the streams and County Beach parks not tested by the Hawaii Department of Health. We were testing 36 sites on a monthly basis, but because of COVID-19 restrictions and the safety of our volunteers we have stopped using volunteers to collect samples and staff now only collect 18 samples monthly. The results are posted here, on our BWTF Map, as well as on the Surfrider national website. Also check The Garden Island newspaper for monthly table of results, like above.

To sign up to receive notifications when a DOH beach advisory, brown water advisory or sewage spill is posted, or any water quality advisory is closed, subscribe via the link below.

Surfrider sampling over the years has documented chronic levels of pollution at Hanamaulu stream, Nawiliwili stream at Kalapaki Bay, Niumalu Beach Park, and Waikomo stream at Koloa Landing. Waiopili Stream at Mahaulepu is 10 times more polluted with feces than the others above. We provide this data to the Hawaii Department of Health and the U.S. EPA, trying to get them to post warning signs at these spots and then take measures to stop the polluting.

If you would like to find out more, contact Dr. Carl J. Berg, Senior Scientist, Kauai Chapter: (808) 639-2968 or cberg@pixi.com