Heal the Ocean focuses on wastewater infrastructure – sewers and septic systems – as well as ocean dumping practices that have contributed to ocean pollution. We are focused on Santa Barbara County, but our methods are now serving as a model for other coastal communities across the country. 

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Heal the Ocean (HTO) was formed in August 1998 in Santa Barbara, California, in response to the closing of local beaches due to bacteria. Its original organizers are Hillary Hauser, a journalist who has covered marine topics – both internationally and in Santa Barbara – for over 40 years, and Jeff Young, a practicing attorney in Santa Barbara who once owned an oyster farm that was polluted out of business in the late 1980s. It is a citizens’ action group that began with Hauser’s newspaper editorial, published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on August 9, 1998, called “Another Day at the Beach?” The piece prompted a huge outpouring of emotional support and calls for action within the community. In response, a public demonstration took place at the Santa Barbara County administration building on August 27, 1998 in support of clean waters and clean beaches, with this community outcry giving rise to Heal the Ocean.

In our early years HTO tackled the septic systems at Rincon, a world class surfing area in Santa Barbara County. We were the first environmental organization in the county to do DNA testing in the environment in order to identify the origins of contamination. While bureaucrats and the public alike argued about the sources of pollution at Rincon, HTO raised $36,000 for this DNA study, and the results were conclusive…the pollution in the Rincon Lagoon was attributable to humans.

After countless hours of advocacy and support by Heal the Ocean at key stages of the project over fifteen years, the South Coast Beaches Communities Septic to Sewer Project is complete, meaning that seven miles of Santa Barbara coastline are now free of septic systems. 


Heal the Ocean is celebrating our 20th Anniversary and we would love for you to join us for this celebration on October 27, 2018.

We are celebrating a lot of good things - cleaning up the Summerland oil field mess (1 well capped, 3 to go, and we're working with State Lands engineers on these). We're also cleaning up the homeless camps in Summerland by working with, and supporting, United Way's "Home for Good" social program.

Septic systems are being hooked up to public wastewater service in Montecito, and we are reaching into other areas as well. Our 2-year project with the Regional Board to produce an assessment of groundwater basins throughout Santa Barbara County is nearly finished. On the City of Santa Barbara Styrofoam ban, we insisted that the "hardship" exemption clause be limited to one-year only.

HTO's work is the work of citizens like you, and your support is so important to us. We look forward to seeing you at the El Paseo on Saturday, October 27, 2018. It's going to be a special party this year!

If you are interested in donating, sponsoring, or purchasing tickets for the event please click the donate button below, or call or email Alison at (805)965-7570 or alison@healtheocean.org.

  Please click the donate button below and enter the dollar amount for your individual seat, preferred ticket, or exclusive table!   THANK YOU!

Please click the donate button below and enter the dollar amount for your individual seat, preferred ticket, or exclusive table! THANK YOU!

Past HTO Events

Current Job Openings


There are no Job/intern opportunities at this time.