Santa Barbara County Makes Best and Worst Beach Report List

Santa Barbara County Makes Best and Worst Beach Report List title=
View of Hendry's Beach in Santa Barbara (stock photo)
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By edhat staff

Santa Barbara's East Beach made the annual Beach Bummer list due to pollution while other county beaches made the honor roll.

Heal the Bay's 2020-2021 Beach Report uses an A-to-F letter grading system to provide water quality information to the public. This annual report issues cumulative grades for beaches on the West Coast, and provides information about other important water quality events that occurred in the past year such as sewage spills and major rainfall events.

Grades are based on routine water quality sampling conducted by County health agencies, State agencies, Tribal agencies, sanitation departments, and dischargers on the West Coast. For recreational health protection, water samples are analyzed for three fecal indicator bacteria (FIB): total coliform, fecal coliform (E. coli), and Enterococcus species. These FIB, in significant quantities, indicate the presence of harmful pathogens in the water. 

Overall, the report stated California beaches had excellent water quality during the summer months of 2020. Out of over 500 beaches across the state, 93% earned good marks (A’s & B’s) in the summer.

However, rainfall this past year was drastically below average, which usually leads to better water quality because reduced amounts of pollutants flow into the ocean. Although, wet weather grades were worse than average this year, likely due to the fact that most wet weather data was collected during the first major rain events, which carry more pollution, according to the report.

East Beach in Santa Barbara has made its first splash onto the Beach Bummer list. Bacteria pollution from the Santa Barbara area flows into the ocean at East Beach through Mission Creek. The last Santa Barbara County Beach Bummer was Arroyo Burro in 2011. 

On the other hand, Guadalupe Dunes in Santa Barbara County made the Honor Roll for a third straight year. El Capitan State Beach also made the grade.

For Santa Barbara County overall, Summer Dry Grades were excellent but slightly lower than average with 94% of the beaches receiving A and B grades. Wet Weather Grades were poor yet above the average this year with 44% receiving A and B grades. Winter Dry Grades were superb and above average with 100% of the beaches earning A and B grades for a second straight year.

Santa Barbara County received 8 inches of rain, which is below the historical average of 13 inches. This may account for the improved Wet Weather Grades, and potentially the Winter Dry Grades because poor water quality tends to linger after rain events, according to the report.

Five sewage spills totaling 8,065 gallons flowed into storm drains, rivers, lakes, or the ocean. One 6,200 gallon spill occurred at Guadalupe Dunes, but no health warnings were issued. 

Read the full report here.

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