Beach Water Quality

Beach Closures and Advisories

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Improved less than 1 percent from
2016 to 2017

How are we doing?

Water quality received a thumbs-up because San Diego County’s total number of beach closures and water quality advisories due to local pollution events decreased from 92 beach-mile days in 2016 to an estimated 26 beach-mile days in 2017. However, when closures and advisories from nonlocal events originating from the Tijuana River are included, the number increases greatly to 697 beach mile-days, largely due to a single event that equated to 356 beach mile-days. In 2017, Solana Beach and Encinitas had the best water quality among San Diego County beaches; in contrast, Coronado and Border Field State Park had an alarming number of water quality issues. See more information.

In San Diego County, total beach closures were down significantly from 41 beach-mile days in 2016 to an estimated 0.3 beach-mile days in 2017. Separately, beach advisories were down from 51 beach-mile days in 2016 to 26 beach-mile days in 2017.

Note: Advisories and closures due to Tijuana River impacts are not included in this visualization. While Tijuana River impacts need to be addressed, its source is outside of county jurisdiction and by excluding related closures, we can provide a better measurement of the effectiveness of local efforts in other parts of the county. In 2017, the number of closures and advisories from the Tijuana River was an additional 671 beach-mile days, mostly resulting from one extended closure that constituted 356 beach mile-days.

Data Source: San Diego County Department of Environmental Health, 2018

Why is it important?

  • Water quality is vital to the conservation of biodiversity – many animals, from migrating birds to various species of fish depend on clean water.
  • Beaches draw many visitors, making water quality critical for growth in San Diego’s billion-dollar tourism industry.
  • Storm drains and river mouths that empty into the ocean can be breeding grounds for microorganisms, leaving swimmers and surfers exposed to a host of bacterial and viral infections.
Beach Water Quality

Beach Advisories and Closures in Beach Mile-Days

(select beaches, 2017)

Beach Advisories
and Closures 2017*

*not including general rain advisories

Encinitas and Solana Beach had the best water quality among San Diego County beaches in 2017. Coronado had poor water quality with nearly 33 beach mile-days of advisories and closures while Border Field State Park/Tijuana Slough National Shoreline had a concerning 385 beach mile-days of advisories and closures, largely due to impacts from the Tijuana River.

*Includes closures due to Tijuana River impacts

Data Source: San Diego County Department of Environmental Health, 2018

  Idea for Change

With ongoing extreme variations in seasonal rainfall and the unpredictability of stormy weather given the potential effects of global warming, ocean pollution from runoff during storm events is a continuing concern for public planning. Government agencies, businesses and residents should consider implementing “climate-smart" stormwater infrastructure to better prepare for runoff in urban areas. The Water Reliability Coalition partnered with the San Diego Regional Chamber to produce a white paper that discusses ways to address stormwater capture and reuse, information critical to inform decision-making.

  Bright Spot

Collecting water quality data is important to understanding the health of our oceans and waterways. In addition to municipal water departments and local water authorities, several nonprofits in San Diego are measuring water quality and working on water policy issues. San Diego Coastkeeper’s volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program is the largest in the state, training volunteers to test freshwater quality from the San Luis Rey watershed in Oceanside to the Tijuana River. The Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force also performs supplementary coastal water quality testing in Imperial Beach and Coronado and will be tracking the extent to which water quality issues in those locations are related to sewage and pollution from both north and south of the border. The data collected is available online and provides information to public agencies, environmental researchers, beach communities and beach-goers.

  What are we measuring?

We measure the yearly trend in beach closures by tracking the total number of days San Diego beaches were closed or flagged with advisories due to health risks, measured in beach mile-days (BMD = number of days x length in miles of beach under advisory or closed). We also map out select beach advisories and closures along the San Diego coast and into Tijuana. Learn more about the data.


Featured Project San Diego Airport

When San Diego International Airport’s new parking plaza opens in May 2018, it will materially contribute to better water quality in San Diego Bay. A stormwater capture and reuse system with a 100,000-gallon storage capacity will collect rainwater that would otherwise run into the bay, using it instead in the adjacent central utility plant. The plant’s current use of potable water to heat and cool the airport terminals will be reduced by about 2 million gallons annually thanks to the rainwater harvesting. The system will allow the airport to use less potable water, while protecting local water quality and becoming more resilient to flooding and sea level rise. For more on the airport authority’s industry-leading sustainability efforts, see its latest online sustainability report.

  Sustainability Report