What is this indicator?

Los Angeles County Public Health and Los Angeles City Sanitation officials monitor beach water quality for certain kinds of bacterial contamination. If levels of bacteria exceed safety standards, health officials notify the public by posting signs indicating a warning or closure is in effect. This measure reports on the six Santa Monica beaches: Montana, Wilshire, the Pier, Pico-Kenter, Strand and Ashland. There are different pollution standards for wet weather and dry weather months. This differentiation exists because rain contributes significantly to urban runoff and beach water pollution whereas pollution during the dry weather season comes from different sources.
This indicator measures the total number of beach warnings and closures issued annually.

Why is it important?

The quality of water at Santa Monica beaches impacts residents and visitors alike, and certain beaches, such as the Santa Monica Municipal Pier, are subject to frequent warnings due to high bacterial levels. The high bacterial levels at this location result from an abundant nesting and daily influx of pigeons and resultant bird waste combined with beach geography which concentrates that waste. Tracking beach warnings and closures provide transparency for beachgoers and data for policymakers working to improve conditions.

How are we doing?

During 2015, there were a total of 146 beach warnings and closures. This is a 39% increase from the number of beach warnings issued in 2010. By 2020, the city must drastically lower these numbers to a maximum of 20 beach warnings issued annually.

To address these elevated bacterial levels, funds from the Clean Beaches and Ocean Parcel Tax, Measure “V”, were used during 2009. The first project funded by this tax, Pier Storm Drain Improvement Project was completed in 2009. It eliminated the output from the Pier storm drain as a source of beach water contamination during the dry season.

The pigeon exclusion project was implemented under Measure V in 2009 to improve water quality by installing bird netting under a small inter-tidal section of the Santa Monica Pier. Though the netting project showed an initial improvement, the netting proved to be ineffective and difficult to maintain long-term. As a result, bacteria levels under and near the Pier are up again.

How can we help?

  • Do you part to keep Santa Monica beaches clean by picking up your trash and recycling.
  • Participate in organized beach cleanups with Heal the Bay or Surfrider .