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County beaches score top water-quality grades

COAST CITIES — Ocean lovers in San Diego County continue to enjoy near-perfect beach water quality during the high-traffic summer season, according to Heal the Bay’s 24th annual Beach Report Card.

Heal the Bay analysts assigned A-to-F letter grades to 74 beaches monitored along the San Diego coast from April 2013 through March 2014, based on levels of bacterial pollution in the water. Some 99 percent of those beaches received A grades for the summer period, up from the previous year’s 96 percent. In comparison, only 78 percent of L.A. County beaches monitored during the summer season received A marks.

For a complete list of beaches and grades, visit

San Diego’s impressive grades are slightly above the county’s five-year average, in which 93 percent of beaches monitored in dry weather earned A grades. Only one beach received a B grade last summer, with no C, D, or F grades given to any site.

San Diego County’s water quality during the winter dry weather time period was also excellent with 98 percent of the monitored locations notching A grades. However, only 47 locations were sampled during the winter compared to the 74 in summer.

The severe drought now impacting California is likely a major contributing factor to improved water quality at beaches statewide. But there’s troubling news for local beachgoers to be found in the report as well. During wet weather, slightly more than one in five beaches in San Diego County received grades of C, D or F for levels of bacterial pollution. Swimming at a beach with a water quality grade of C or lower greatly increases the risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and rashes.

San Diego County’s large population of surfers and other year-round ocean users continues to be put at risk by pollution found in storm-water runoff, which can foul the ocean for days after the initial rainfall. For this reason, Heal the Bay has been advocating for greater public investment in infrastructure that can capture, clean and reuse storm-water rather than divert it to the sea. In a time of drought, runoff can be a resource rather than a nuisance.

For a detailed look at beach results for each county and report methodology, please refer to our complete report. A PDF version is available at