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Summer is that most blissful season full of lazy days spent, if you have access to one, poolside or at the beach. And while swimming, surfing, or maybe just sunbathing are all on the agenda for beach days, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has some other plans for how to spend summer on the water.

According to the NRDC, “Summer 2014 is filled with opportunities to improve water quality throughout the United States and to better protect people’s health in the process,” of how the organization is trying to raise awareness about water quality during the season when people are most likely to be surrounded by it. One of the NRDC’s greatest resources is its “Testing the Waters 2014: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” an online map that outlines the water quality of thousands of U.S. beaches. “Testing the Waters” also provides a ranking of states by how clean their coastal beaches are, which is a great resource for summertime vacationers. For example, Washington ranks 19th in beach water quality out of 30 states evaluated, while New Hampshire ranks as the state with the second best beach water quality in the country.

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Why is the NRDC’s searchable beach map and “Testing the Waters” guide important? As Adele Peters of Fast Company notes, “The EPA estimates that up to 3.5 million people get sick each year from contact with raw sewage that flows into the water when drains overflow,” of how the water you swim in can directly impact one’s health. “The real number might be even higher,” she says, “since if you happen to get pink eye or a stomach bug after a weekend of swimming, you might not automatically suspect your local beach and report it.” With this in mind, it’s no wonder that the NRDC is working hard to raise awareness about beach water quality. In fact, the organization isn’t really “testing the waters,” as much as aggressively analyzing the beach water on a very large, national scale.

Learn more about the NRDC’s clean water initiatives by visiting www.nrdc.org.

Featured Image: Abel Pau via Flickr CC

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Sarah is a freelance writer with a wide variety of interests, including international relations, politics, education, humanitarianism, women's rights, yoga, mental and physical health, and natural remedies.