California Beach Water Quality Information Page
California has some of the most popular beaches in the country. Over 150 million day visits are generated by tourists and residents use them annually to swim, wade, surf, and dive. Beach visitors spend over $10 billion each year in California. Beach water quality monitoring and strong pollution prevention measures are critical for protecting beach goers from waterborne diseases. California has the most extensive and comprehensive monitoring and regulatory program for beaches in the nation. Monitoring is performed by county health agencies in seventeen different coastal and San Francisco Bay Area counties, publicly owned sewage treatment plants, other dischargers along the coastal zone, environmental groups and numerous citizen-monitoring groups. (for more background information)
Beach Information Summary Graphs
The vast majority of the time, California beaches are open and available for the recreation their visitors go to enjoy. Unfortunately, there are times when it is not advisable to go in the coastal waters due to bacterial contamination. The graphs summarize information about those times are available from here. Postings are advisories to not contact the water because monitoring shows elevated bacterial levels. Closures are water contact prohibitions due to sewage spills.
Below, users may view graphs of beach availability using a calendar year basis, or for the recreation season (April 1- October 31st) specified in California statute (AB 411 period). Beach Mile-Day is the distance of beach posted or closed times the number of days of posting or closure.
Total Available Beach Mile Days vs Total Posted/Closed BMD for the Historical Dataset - Calendar Year
Summary for Calendar Year and AB411 Time Period - Posting and Closures
- Postings - AB411 Time Period (shown above)
- Postings - Calendar Year Period
- Closures - AB411 Time Period
- Closures - Calendar Year Period
- Chart showing Calendar Year and AB411 period for Closures, Beach Mile Days (shows 2001-2005 data)
Posting and Closures
Local health agencies are responsible for issuing advisories (postings) and closures. An advisory is issued when the results of testing indicate that one or more bacterial levels exceed the Ocean Water Contact Sport Standards issued by the California Department of Health Services (HS Code 115875-115915). Posted advisories usually are placed as signs at the beach and often along access points to the beach saying that swimming may cause illness. Beach closures are the result of sewage spills that will or have the potential to reach coastal waters. Closures are issued immediately upon notification by the agency responsible for the spill and closure signs are posted along the beach. For beach closures, the water remains off limits for wading, swimming and surfing until bacterial standards are met. Information about current posting (advisory) and closure events are also available for most counties on their web sites and telephone hotlines (County Contact links page). The report links below provide historical data on California beach water quality.
California Beach Water Quality Report Cards
To provide a report card evaluation of water quality at coastal beaches throughout California, the State Water Board has endorsed the following Websites for weekly and annual considerations.
- Heal The Bay Weekly Beach Report Card
This report provides a third party rating system that evaluates beach water quality in California based on the previous 30 days of monitoring results. This report card is updated weekly.
- Heal The Bay Annual Beach Report Card
This report provides a third party rating system that evaluates beach water quality on an annual basis at California beaches. This report is based on water quality monitoring results over the entire year.
Clean Beach Initiative
In addition to monitoring our coastal water quality, California is committed to improving and protecting beaches along its coast. California has invested $100 million in Clean Beach Initiative grants to fund local projects that reduce bacterial contamination along the coast. The State has also funded research to development more rapid detection methods for knowing when to post beaches, tracking the sources of contamination, and studies to better understand the relationship between bacterial indicators and incidence of disease.