As Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer beach season, ocean goers can dive into some of the cleanest water in California.
Ninety-six percent of San Diego County beaches received “A” and “B” ratings for their water quality, according to a report card released by Heal the Bay, a non-profit ocean monitoring organization.
Members of the organization announced report card results today at the Ocean Beach Dog Beach – which received an “A” rating in this year’s dry season. Overall, San Diego beaches rank among the highest on the west coast, with 20 receiving perfect A+ ratings.
The results are an improvement from the 7-year average of San Diego beaches, said Kirsten James, director of water quality at Heal the Bay.
Conditions are great for visitors James said.
“The less bacteria present, the safer it is to swim,” James said, adding that swimmers may experience flu-like symptoms or rashes after swimming in contaminated water.
The rankings of 47 San Diego beaches are based off weekly bacterial pollution levels taken by local monitoring agencies. While none of the beaches were found to have dangerous bacteria levels, several beaches, including La Jolla Shores and Imperial Beach, received “F” rating in wet weather.
The poor rating is a result of storm water runoff, which carries polluted rainwater into storm drain outlets. While this amount of runoff is fairly normal for California beaches, James said the public should be aware of a beach’s water quality before they go.
This awareness is especially important for those who visit Imperial Beach and Coronado Beach, which become contaminated when currents from the Tijuana River flow north, said Ben McCue, conservation director with WildCoast.
Visitors to these beaches, he said, should check to see when beaches will be closed due to contamination. Last year, beaches near the border were closed 237 days out of the year.
Elsewhere in San Diego County, a high number of sewage spills contributed to the contaminated water this year, releasing over 8 million gallons of sewage into the ocean.
Tips to avoid getting sick at the beach:
- Wait three days after a rainstorm before going in the water
- Stay at least 100 yards away from storm drain outlets
- Avoid puddle-stomping in front of storm drains
- Watch out for beaches with poor tidal circulation