Waterman Testers, volunteers committed for water quality


Pressures on the marine environment are numerous: abandoned coastal landfills, unregulated development, and offshore hydrocarbon extraction, to name a few. To address these pressures Surfrider Foundation Europe founded Surfrider Coastal Defenders in 1995, a program empowering citizens to respond directly to local issues with local solutions. Among the fleet of Coastal Defenders are the Waterman Testers, those whose monitor bathing water quality in areas that are suspected to be polluted.

Water quality analysis, a mission that benefits us all

Volunteers, boating enthusiasts, or just nature lovers, Surfrider Waterman Testers  come from all walks of life. Their mission: take water samples from a beach or surf spot exposed to one or various sources of pollution, in order to monitor its sanitary quality. The objective: detect whether or not an existing bacteriological pollution is a risk to bathers’ health.

Coastal Defender volunteers willing to get on board are firstly invited to purchase a certified test kit (sterile vial and isothermal container), available in most biological laboratory. These laboratories will then analyse the sample in complete independence.

The Waterman Tester's field sampling must be carried out according to a scientific protocol, easy but specific, and to be mandatorily respected: the sample must be collected in the marine environment and at least 40 cm deep. The results are known after an incubation period of 48 hours in the laboratory.

This collection protocol, as well as the phase, is standardised and enforced by the European Directive on bathing water quality. This directive defines the health criteria on which Surfrider Europe interprets the results provided by the laboratory. Bacterial pollution is generally measured by two key parameters: levels of enterococci and Escherichia coli in water. As pathogenic elements derived from faeces, they can be used to assess the risk of viruses incurred by users.

The case of Matosinhos, Portugal

A revision to the European Directive on bathing water quality is scheduled for 2020 and will be an opportunity for Surfrider Europe to highlight the necessity to add equally important parameters, such as chemical or plastic pollution.

In order to enrich the claims made by Surfrider Europe, we invite you to share your own ideas and suggestions, by filling the questionnaire that you can find at the end of the article dated June 27 about the Directive revision.

The questionnaire

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