Beaches Are Being Dyed Pink To Study Pollution

The scripps institution of oceanography

Oh I do like to be beside the sea side… Wait… Why is this beach pink?

A fluorescent pink shoreline would probably come as quite a shock if you weren’t aware of project Cross Surfzone/Inner-shelf Dye Exchange (CSIDE), but such an eyesore will undoubtedly be making its way across Instagram soon. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, alongside several other institutions, are coloring coasts in California and Mexico as part of a bold venture to study beach water pollution. The first dye was released last week and two more releases are scheduled in October.

Now, dyeing the ocean pink to study contamination may sound somewhat counterintuitive. But there is method behind the madness. Of course, the stain researchers are using is non-toxic, and it will provide scientists the unique opportunity to track its migration along the shore. Following each of the three releases, two in California and one in Mexico, the team will stalk the garish water for 36 hours as it flows some 10-20 kilometers (6-12.5 miles), using equipment on board boats, Jet Skis and planes. In doing so, they hope to learn how pollution and other contaminants of the ocean travel and dissipate along coastlines.

Since our coasts are such valuable assets, providing habitats, food and recreational opportunities, such information is vital for their management. If we are able to predict how quickly a contaminant will disperse, for example following heavy rains that can flood shores with pollutants, then officials can make decisions regarding beach closures in order to prevent human exposure.

“The U.S. population is concentrated at the coasts. Despite the importance of clean coastal waters to our economy and well-being, declining water quality from pollutants, such as sewage, entering the ocean threatens coastal ecosystems and human health,” CSIDE project leader Falk Feddersen said in a statement. “By tracking dye released both north and south of the corner, we can understand the rate of pollutant transport along the coast, how it dilutes, and learn how to develop accurate models for when it will be okay or not okay to go in the ocean – similar to weather models.” 

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