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Beaches statewide face clean water ‘challenges’


Result of excess runoff from rainy winter

An unusually wet winter led to water quality challenges at California beaches, according to an annual report released this week by an environmental group, which determined that only two beaches statewide were worthy of spots on its coveted “honor roll” of clean water conditions.

In 2021, 50 beaches landed on Heal the Bay’s honor roll, which is included in the group’s annual Beach Report Card. The only two earning the designation for the 2022-23 season were Point Loma Lighthouse in San Diego County and Bean Hollow State Beach in San Mateo County.

The report noted that beach water quality remained very good during dry weather across the state. Overall, 95% of California beaches reviewed by Heal the Bay received letter grades of A or B. The group assigns the grades based on levels of fecal-indicator bacterial pollution.

Despite the overall good ratings, group officials said researchers “remain deeply concerned about ocean water quality,” noting that “polluted waters pose a significant health risk to millions of people in California.”

“As climate change continues to bring weather whiplash, our water woes will swing from scarcity to pollution. This year, record precipitation produced major impacts on water quality across Coastal California,” said Tracy Quinn, president and CEO of Heal the Bay, said in a statement. “Now more than ever, we must prioritize multi-benefit projects to manage stormwater as both a water quality and supply solution, all while ensuring that the public is kept informed of risks to public health.”

The beach at Santa Monica Pier tied with Playa Blanca near Tijuana for first place on Heal the Bay’s dubious “Beach Bummers” list, which tallies the most polluted beaches in the state.

Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey, a regular fixture on the list, was included again, ranking eighth, followed in ninth place by Poche Beach in Orange County.

The Tijuana River Mouth in San Diego County placed sixth on the list. The other five “Beach Bummers” were all in San Mateo County.