Department of Public Works
LA County Flood Control District
Assistant Deputy Director/
Division Engineer:

Angela R. George

Assistant Division Engineers:
Terri Grant
Paul Alva

For information call
(626) 458-4300
Santa Monica Bay Beach Monitoring
August 2003 Issue

What?    Beach Water Quality Monitoring
Where?  Santa Monica Bay
Who?     Over 20 agencies
When?   Daily, weekly, monthly, and annually
Why?     Health, safety, regulatory compliance, and environmental stewardship

Do you swim or surf in the Santa Monica Bay? Do you eat fish, go boating or scuba dive? It's summer time, and if you live in Southern California you are most likely off to the beach soaking up the rays and enjoying some of the best beaches in the world. So, what is your favorite Santa Monica beach? Perhaps Hermosa. Maybe Malibu or Venice Beach.

Did you know that there are over 30 State, County, and City beaches, coves and points in the Santa Monica Bay just in Los Angeles County alone? The following nineteen are County beaches:

  • Nicholas Canyon
  • Zuma, Point Dume
  • Dan Blocker
  • Malibu
  • Las Tunas
  • Topanga
  • Will Rogers
  • Venice
  • Dockweiler
  • Manhattan Beach
  • Santa Monica
  • Marina Del Rey
  • Hermosa
  • Redondo
  • Torrance
  • Point Vicente
  • White Point Royal Palms
  • Cabrillo

Because Southern California has some of the most heavily populated beaches in the world, throughout the summer months the beaches may not have the best water quality. There are many sources that contribute pollutants to the Santa Monica Bay such as, leaky sewers and septic tanks, migratory birds, human contact, and storm drains. Trash is one of the most visible sources of pollution. Litter is washed down from our city streets and into the storm drains, creeks, and the Bay.

Storm drains protect us from flooding, but without proper care, what goes into them can be detrimental to the quality and health of our Bay. Strom drains collect water from our homes, businesses, and streets, and direct it to our rivers and creeks, which eventually drain to the ocean.

What's an important step to protect our beaches from pollution? Water quality monitoring.

Monitoring allows us to determine sources of pollution and gage our progress. California regulations require local health agencies to monitor water quality at beaches during the rainy season for beaches that are adjacent to a flowing storm drain and have 50,000 visitors annually. Much of the pollutants carried by stormwater runoff are difficult to see. Common examples of these pollutants are bacteria, sediment, heavy metals, oil and grease, and nutrients. If the levels of these pollutants are too high, they may harm the fish living in the water body, the birds that use the water body for drinking and as a source of food (fish), and humans that use the ocean for swimming, surfing or fishing.

Monitoring for the presence of certain bacteria, called "indicator" bacteria allows us to determine the health of the beach and how safe it is for various uses. Studies have shown that the "indicator" bacteria are not necessarily the bacteria that cause illness, but the concentration levels of the bacteria indicate the presence of other disease causing microorganisms. Some studies have found that human contact in beaches contaminated with bacteria can be associated with ear infection, stomach flu, upper respiratory infection, and skin rash.

Did you know that the Santa Monica Bay has the most monitored beaches and watersheds in the Country?

Public Works is taking a watershed management approach to protect our beaches from pollution. We monitor in conjunction with other County Departments, and other agencies and organizations daily, weekly and monthly. More than 20 agencies conduct monitoring programs in the Santa Monica Bay.

Why is it important to me, my family, and the environment and how can I help?

Public Works is doing a lot, but we can't do it without your help. We use the monitoring data to comply with state and federal regulations to improve the water quality. We have a public outreach program that educates the public about water quality. In the coming years, we will implement programs and projects to clean up the water by removing trash and other pollutants.

Everyone can help by being aware that what goes into our storm drains ends up at the beach. It is not recommended to swim or surf within 100 yards of any flowing storm drain or for 3 days after a rain storm. Report illegal discharges and spills to our hotline, 888 CLEAN-LA. Don't litter, always use trash cans, pick up after your pets, recycle used motor oil, and don't over fertilize your lawn.

Together, we can make a difference to protect your favorite beach!

--Authors, Denise Noble and Carolina Trevizo.

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