Brown Water Advisory

Not sure what a Brown Water Advisory is? We'll explain why you will want to avoid brown water.

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Guide Series: Hawaii Dangers
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If you're in Hawaii (or anywhere for that matter) and a Brown Water Advisory is posted at a beach (or any body of water) you'll want to listen to these warnings and stay out. So what is brown water and why is it so bad?

Brown water in this context isn't muddy river waters that occur naturally. That type of brown water, sometimes where a river empties into the ocean is perfectly normal. Of course, you'll still want to avoid that brown, murky, muddy water in general because sharks love that type of environment and Shark Attacks In Hawaii do happen.


When you hear of a Brown Water Advisory at a beach it's because something man-made has gone wrong. In most cases, it's as simple as heavy rains, often from storms or nearby Hurricanes or even a Tsunami, that wash all sorts of gunk into the ocean and that turns the water brown.

But I said it was a man-made issue and rain is a Mother Nature thing, right? True, but the gunk that makes the water brown is usually man-made and can include sewer water, pesticides, dead animals, chemicals, and overflowing cesspools (that store urine and fecal matter). Heavy rains can wash all sorts of nasty stuff down the mountains and into the ocean, like the time the trash dump near the Ko Olina Resort flooded and washed a bunch of trash into the ocean.


Other times, Mother Nature isn't involved in any way. For example, a sewer line may break which has happened in the Ala Wai canal before. Or maybe a mega company spills over 200,000 gallons of molasses into the ocean. Yes, that actually happened.

Regardless of how it happens, this is some seriously nasty water you'll want to keep off of your body. When it does happens you will usually see signs posted, at least in common beach access areas. But even if you don't see a sign, brown water is something you should just avoid. When in doubt, don't go out as they say. Or in this case: When it's brown, get outta town.


In most cases, the brown water will go away after a few days as the ocean washes everything out to sea and probably eventually to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Until the advisory is lifted, avoid areas in and around impacted areas.
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