Even before the pandemic, the beach was my safe place. Growing up in SoCal, I always made sure to keep a spare bathing suit and towel in the trunk of my car in case I found myself near the coast with a moment to spare. Through this past year, like many of us, I turned to L.A.’s natural spaces, like parks, hiking trails and beaches, just as much for an escape as for grounding myself. As summer gets into full swing, more of us are taking advantage of L.A.’s access to beaches, lakes, rivers and other places you might want to cool off. According to environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay, beach days and river trips are at an all-time high. But are they safe for a dip?
Heal the Bay just released their 31st annual Beach Report Card, which studied 500 California beaches, and their 3rd annual River Report Card, which studied 28 freshwater recreation areas in L.A. County. The Beach Report Card uses A-F letter grading system to provide water quality information to the public, while the River Report Card uses a green, yellow, red color-coded grading system.
Let’s start with the good news. The study found 93% of the 500 California beaches studied and 70% of the freshwater recreation areas monitored in L.A. County had excellent water quality scores during the summer of 2020. Eight swimming holes across L.A. County received 100% Green grades—a first for the River Report Card! A+ beaches earned a spot on Heal the Bay’s Honor Roll, which included 35 out of over 500 monitored beaches.
2020-2021 L.A. County Honor Roll included seven beaches:
- Royal Palms State Beach
- Leo Carillo Beach, at Arroyo Sequit Creek
- Puerco State Beach, at creek mouth
- Las Flores State Beach, at Las Flores Creek
- Broad Beach, at Trancas Creek
- Escondido State Beach, at Escondido Creek
- Nicholas Beach, at San Nicholas Canyon Creek
Moving on to the not so good news. Ten California beaches made the 2020-2021 Beach Bummers list, ranking D or below. Number five on that list is Marina Del Rey Mother’s Beach, a popular beach for families and yet, as the report revealed, it contains high levels of pollution. Since Mother’s Beach is enclosed within Marina Del Rey, there is little water circulation, which means bacteria pollution does not get flushed away from the shore as it does at open ocean beaches. L.A. County has attempted to improve the water quality in that area, but the enclosure makes it difficult to eliminate the high levels of pollution.
We can’t always visit Honor Roll rivers and beaches for a myriad of reasons, but that shouldn’t stop us from having fun in the water this summer. Heal the Bay shares 5 tips to stay safe at ocean and freshwater areas wherever you go:
- Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches and freshwater areas with poor water circulation
- Swim at least 100 yards away from flowing storm drains, creeks and piers
- Stay out of the water for at least 72-hours after rain
- Check in with the lifeguard or ranger on duty for information about the safest places to swim or boat
- Review beachreportcard.com for latest water quality information
The Beach Report Card also includes Oregon, Washington and Tijuana, Mexico. For more detailed information about water quality of L.A. rivers and beaches, and to see if your go-to swimming hole is on the Honor Roll or Beach Bummer list, check out Heal the Bay’s full report.