California beaches had excellent water quality in summer 2021, according to the thirty-second annual Beach Report Card that environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay released today. Heal the Bay assigned "A-to-F" letter grades for 500 California beaches in the 2021-2022 report, based on levels of fecal-indicator bacterial pollution in the ocean measured by County health agencies. In addition, the group ranked water quality at 35 freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County for summer 2021 and shared findings from the third annual River Report Card, in partnership with the World Surf League (WSL).
Summer is officially here - the peak season for swimming outdoors. The good news is 94% of the California beaches assessed by Heal the Bay received an A or B grade during summer 2021, which is on par with the five-year average.
Even so, Heal the Bay scientists remain deeply concerned about ocean water quality. Polluted waters pose a significant health risk to millions of people in California. People who come in contact with water with a C grade or lower are at a greater risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes. Beaches and rivers usually have high-risk water quality following a rain event. Less rain typically means that reduced amounts of pollutants, including bacteria, are flushed through storm drains and rivers into the ocean. Last year, rainfall across coastal counties in California was 24 percent lower than the historical average. Only 66% of California beaches had good or excellent grades during wet weather, which was a little above average, but still very concerning.
"A day at the beach and the river shouldn't make anyone sick," said Tracy Quinn, President and CEO of Heal the Bay. "It is wonderful news that most beaches in California have good water quality for swimming. But there are areas with poor water quality that need improvement and infrastructure upgrades. We can't forget that our marine ecosystems are still threatened by the climate crisis and other pollution sources, and we need solutions to address these pressing issues as well. We expect people to increasingly seek out ocean shorelines and freshwater swimming holes to cool off as temperatures rise, so safe, clean, and healthy water is needed now more than ever."
"At the World Surf League, we are passionate about protecting our global ocean and as such, we are a proud partner of Heal the Bay's Beach Report Card. As surfers, we depend on a healthy ocean and it's critical that we all do what we can to preserve the future of the ocean and our sport. Safeguarding the health of the millions that enjoy the California coastline, this beach report card is essential for monitoring water quality and keeping the public informed and we at the WSL are honored to be a part of it," said Emily Hofer, Chief People Officer and Executive Director WSL PURE at WSL.
Heal the Bay's Beach Report Card and River Report Card provide access to the latest water quality information and are a critical part of our science-based advocacy work in support of strong environmental policies that protect public health. The Beach Report Card and River Report Card are available at healthebay.org/beachreportcard2022