The State of Santa Cruz Beaches

by Brendan Bane

June 27, 2013—If you want to splash in pristine waters this summer, head to Sunny Cove, Pleasure Point, Sunset State Beach, or Lighthouse State Beach (better known by its nickname, Its Beach). Each of those beaches scored well in the National Resource Defense Council’s annual water quality report, Testing the Waters 2013. The NRDC screened water samples for coliform and enterococcus, scoring shorelines by the number of samples exceeding state-imposed bacterial concentration standards.

Compared among 30 states, California placed 20th. Within the state, Santa Cruz County beaches ranked toward the middle of the spectrum. The report features an interactive map users can search to review local beaches’ scores.

Over half of Santa Cruz beaches never exceeded standards. Another large chunk of our shores exceeded standards in less than 10 percent of samples. But two beaches, Capitola and Cowells, continually showed elevated levels of bacteria. The two were big contributors to Santa Cruz's modest score. Both beaches had the highest number of standard-exceeding samples within the county, each scoring over 30 percent. The Sentinel reports that that in the case of Cowells, officials are investigating sewage runoff from apartment buildings and campers as the cause of the beach’s bacterial blooms.

Click here for a complete list of Santa Cruz County's cleanest beaches.

San Mateo County beaches scored the lowest in the state, as Aquatic Park and Pillar Point-Capistrano exceeded standards in more than half of samples. In the winner’s circle, squeaky-clean sections of Newport Beach and Orange County beaches took five out of 14 spots on the council’s highest-ranking shorelines in the nation.

In addition to its annual report, the NRDC is working toward cleaner beaches on the legislative and plastic pollution fronts, as its own Leila Monroe writes:

If passed, the legislation would help to reduce plastic pollution at its source by incentivizing the design of less plastic packaging or more recyclable plastic packaging, improving recycling infrastructure throughout the state, and generating support for activities that prevent plastic waste from polluting our waterways, oceans and beaches.

Locally, Save Our Shores is hosting events to combat beach littering during the approaching holiday.