Today’s guest blogger, D’amy Steward, works tirelessly to address water quality issues and inspire people to make a difference in their local communities. D’amy is a sophomore at Duke University, double majoring in Biology and Earth and Ocean Science. In addition to her work in the classroom, she is doing work in the field as a member of EarthEcho International’s Youth Leadership Council and West Coast Ambassador for Sailors for the Sea. D’amy is also the founder of OceanSteward.org, a website devoted to synergizing ocean conservation efforts.

Damy StewardD’amy Steward

Imagine standing at the beach, the surge of the waves burying your feet in the sand. The morning sun casts golden light on the crests of the breaking waves. You study the waves, wade deeper into the water, push off on your surfboard, and dive under the first wave. An indescribable feeling fills you with instant peace.

“SURFER, SURFER! Get out of the water. The water is contaminated. We are putting up contamination signs now,” blares a lifeguard on a bullhorn.

Another sewage spill from the Tijuana River has made its way to the ocean and beaches in Coronado, California – the fecal coliform bacteria levels are through the roof. This has become a frequent occurrence, forcing the closing of Southern California beaches for dozens of days each year. I contracted MRSA in the bay two years ago – this frightening ordeal left me with a heightened awareness about the importance of water quality.

I grew up in or on the water: surfing, sailing, snorkeling, rowing, and scuba diving. I always followed the rule – never to go into the water for 72 hours following a rainstorm. My first real experience with poor water quality was during a sailing training camp in Mexico. After a full day of sailing, a group of us went to a local surf spot. I ended up in the hospital, violently ill. As it turned out, the local surf spot was also the local runoff. My sailing trip came to an abrupt halt as I was unable to move from my bed with nothing left to vomit and a raging fever.

Damy waterAn avid sailor, D’amy grew up on the water

Our ocean is not the only problem area. Lake, rivers, and streams are all at risk of poor water quality. On a family trip to China, I was surprised by modern infrastructure and even more surprised that the water was not potable. Their solution? Plastic water bottles. I cringed at the thought of the sheer mass of plastics.

Water quality must be addressed worldwide, which is why programs like the EarthEcho Water Challenge are so important. The EarthEcho Water Challenge affords people around the world the opportunity to test the water in their communities, report their findings, and take action to protect their water resources. The simple water tests are designed for people of all ages to get involved. The first step toward finding solutions to urgent problems is to raise awareness. EarthEcho International is committed to inspiring “young people worldwide to act now for a sustainable future.” I am proud to serve on their Youth Leadership Council to raise awareness and mobilize young activists to affect change.

Damy inspireD’amy works to raise awareness and inspire young activists

My wish is that the young people of the world recognize the importance of caring for our planet. As we approach a population of 9 billion, water quality will become even more critical. It is going to take smart scientists and the resolve of the world to enact change and save our planet. Take the Water Challenge. Raise awareness in your community. And as I always ask people to do: pick up three pieces of trash every day, say no to plastics, and convince your friends to do the same.