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Maui Annual Water Quality Reports

Since 2017, the Maui Chapter has tested beaches around the island for the presence of enterococcus, a fecal bacteria that indicates the presence of human or animal waste in the water.  Elevated levels of enterococcus increase the likelihood that other pathogens that can make people sick may be present. Water is considered unsafe if levels exceed 130 enterococcus forming units/100mL. Sample collection and pollution level standards set by Hawaiʻi Department of Health (HDOH). The Chapter publishes its data in an annual report. You can also view the 2023 Hawaiʻi Regional Water Quality Report that compares water quality conditions across Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, and Maui. 

Of the 16 sites regularly tested in 2023, three exceeded health standards over 20% of the year.

blue water task force sample bottle
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Maui Chapter volunteers analyze water quality samples from across the island each month. L-R Kristina McHugh, Laura McHugh, and Janeen Bittmann. 

What did we find?

Of the 16 sites regularly tested in 2023, three sites (Kalepolepo Beach Park, Wailuku Stream, and Māliko Bay) had over 20% of their samples exceed state health standards. All of these sites showed similarly high bacteria levels in 2022. Read more > 

Annual reports allow us to easily compare our data over time. Check out our previous annual Maui BWTF reports:

What Impacts Coastal Pollution?

With 88,000 cesspools spread across the islands, Hawaiʻi has one of the highest per capita use of cesspools for wastewater disposal. Surfrider BWTF data consistently shows the link between coastal cesspools and higher bacteria levels. On Oʻahu, for example, sites like Kahaluʻu, Hakipuʻu, and Waiāhole are all characterized by high concentrations of coastal cesspools, meaning that there is known wastewater contamination. The chronic pollution documented at these sites by the BWTF indicates the potential impact of sewage pollution in these areas. Large storms also wash everything from upstream to the ocean, contributing to higher bacteria levels.

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A beach goer at Kapukaulua (Baldwin Beach) on Mauiʻs North Shore walks through the edge of a perennial stream with flowing brown water. 
Photo Credit: Lauren Blickley

“Our data indicates that coastal cesspools are likely contributing to high bacteria readings in certain areas of the islands,” said Dr. Dan Amato, Coordinator of the Oʻahu Blue Water Task Force. “In addition, large storms can contribute to elevated bacteria levels in coastal areas as flowing streams wash everything from upstream – pollutants, bacteria, nutrients, pesticides – into the ocean.”

BWTF co coordinator, Dan, inputing data

The BWTF sites with chronically high bacteria readings are additionally located at the mouth of streams or rivers. Chronic pollution at these sites may also be attributed to land-based runoff from upland areas that flows into the ocean. Families, ocean users, and the public should be aware of the poor water quality conditions in these freshwater flows and seek to avoid them. The public should be particularly aware after heavy rain events that lead to increased runoff and can prompt Brown Water Advisories. Even if you do not see a public notice posted, avoid brown water until conditions clear.

“We strongly recommend that the public stay out of the water if it is brown. The brown water indicates runoff from upslope areas and we often find elevated bacteria levels,” said Dr. Amato.



BWTF Coordinator Dr. Dan Amato in the field.
Photo Credit: Erik Kabik Photography/

Stop Sewage Pollution

As part of its recently launched STOP Sewage Pollution program, Surfrider Foundation encourages homeowners to  improve water quality by following these 8 simple steps:

  1. Convert your cesspool
  2. Share your knowledge about the impacts of cesspools on water quality
  3. Inspect and pump your septic tanks and cesspools regularly.
  4. Don’t use septic additives.
  5. Only flush the three P’s (pee, poop and toilet paper)
  6. Don’t pour cooking grease or oils down the drain.
  7. Conserve water inside your home.
  8. Soak up the rain and reduce runoff by directing roof downspouts into a rain barrel or vegetated area.

Community members are encouraged to check water quality results posted online before they head to the beach at Current and historic data are available.

Past Maui BWTF Reports

Use the following links to access the past annual reports

  1. 2022 Maui BWTF Report
  2. 2021 Maui BWTF Report
  3. 2020 Maui BWTF Report