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Research Theme: Beach Water Quality

California’s beach water quality monitoring program is the most comprehensive in the nation. By law, water quality at high-use beaches must be tested at least once per week between April and October. Some beaches are also tested multiple times per week throughout the year. When water-quality standards are exceeded, officials are required to take action to protect swimmers by either closing the beach or positing warning signs that notify the public of possible health risks from water contact. However, this system is flawed for two reasons. First, current bacteria-count methods require at least a 24-hour incubation to obtain  results, preventing managers from taking action the day of exceedance. Second, the fecal-bacteria indicator prescribed by regulation may not be appropriate in California, as regulations were developed and validated at beaches where human sewage and associated pathogens are known sources of contamination. In contrast, fecal-indicator bacteria at California beaches generally come from non-point sources.


Learn more about Microbial Source Tracking

SCCWRP Research

Recognizing the deficiencies in current beach water quality monitoring regimens, SCCWRP has embarked on a program to develop, validate, and implement new indicators and measurement methods. The goal of this research is to provide beach managers with the tools and information needed to accurately assess health risks and notify the public of risks on the day of exceedance. To this end, SCCWRP is working with the top researchers in the field to:

• Develop and evaluate new water quality indicators and measurement methods.
• Assess and refine tools to identify and track sources of fecal pollution in the environment.
• Validate these methods by incorporating them into large epidemiological studies where their efficacy as indicators of swimming related illness may be evaluated.

Beach Water Quality

Highlighted Research Project

Completed Research Projects

For more information on Beach Water Quality, contact John Griffith at (714) 755-3228.
This page was last updated on: 7/23/2014