What’s In Your Water?

Waterkeeper Alliance is watching that for us
BY: PAIGE TURNER

The heat of the summer is upon us, and for many that means heading to the beach. Grab the umbrella, the chairs, the reef-safe lotion, and some snacks. A great beach day consists of all these things, but it also consists of something many don’t consider: water quality.

The quality of oceans, lakes, and rivers are a growing concern across the planet. Luckily, the Waterkeeper Alliance is here to help. Starting in 1966  some fishermen in New York took action when they saw industrial pollutants destroy their fisheries on the Hudson River. They became Waterkeepers, people who monitor the quality of the water, and started the process of cleaning the river. Waterkeepers began to pop up everywhere, and today over 300 Waterkeepers around the world form the non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance.

By holding governments and industry accountable, they ensure access to clean water for fishing, swimming, and drinking. On six continents, Waterkeepers are patrolling and protecting 2.5 million square miles of ocean, lakes, and rivers. The Waterkeeper Alliance is a very highly rated charity by Charity Watch and Charity Navigator. In Mexico, there are several groups helping to protect our waters who work in conjunction with the Waterkeeper Alliance. 

The entire Baja Peninsula has 11 Waterkeepers, with eight in Baja Sur alone: Cabo Pulmo Coast Waterkeeper, ROC La Paz Waterkeeper, Loreto Coastkeeper, Los Cabos Coastkeeper, Magdalena Baykeeper, Punta Abreojos Coastkeeper, Santa Rosalía Coast Waterkeeper, and Todos Santos Waterkeeper.

The greatest threat to our local waters is a combination of agriculture runoff, unregulated development, mining, and untreated waste water. Over 75 sites in Baja Sur alone are tested each month. However, it’s not only water quality these groups are monitoring. They also patrol waters, report illegal fishing, clean beaches and mangroves, and educate locals on the importance of our waterways and oceans. Each group also takes local advice into consideration.

ROC – La Paz Waterkeeper recently responded to a request to test for heavy metals in the La Paz Bay dredging zone. Their tests concluded that the metals in the water were below the maximum allowed amount. The La Paz Waterkeeper also organizes beach and mangrove cleanups throughout the year.

There are several ways for you to get involved. The Waterkeeper Alliance provides the opportunity for anyone to become a waterkeeper, however, the Baja Peninsula seems pretty much covered at this point. Nevertheless, the Alliance accepts donations as a way for supporters to help. Other ways to get involved include signing up for the Alliance’s newsletter, attending an event (although at this moment there are no local events), and accessing the Waterkeeper Alliance’s marketplace, where a portion of the profits help the organization. The waterkeeper/coastkeeper in La Paz and Los Cabos also have Facebook pages so supporters can stay up to date on activities and events. 

So, if you’re headed to the beach this summer, an easy way to find out if the water is safe is to check the Waterkeeper Alliance’s website. Another useful tool is the Swim Guide phone app and website. Swim Guide, created by a Waterkeeper in Lake Ontario known as Swim Drink Fish Canada, is an app that shows water quality for over 7,000 beaches, lakes, and rivers around the world. Results from the Waterkeepers in La Paz, Cabo Pulmo, Cabo San Lucas, Magdalena Bay, and Loreto are uploaded to the Swim Guide monthly. However, at the time of writing this article, only the beaches in La Paz, Magdalena Bay, and Loreto are up to date.

For more information on the Waterkeeper near you, visit waterkeeperalliance.org and select “Waterkeepers”. These hard working locals make sure the beautiful waters of Baja stay suitable for fishing or swimming.