Out of the 30 U.S. states with ocean or lakefront beaches, California ranks 20th when it comes to water quality, found a study released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council. A five percent decrease from the previous year, there were 5,515 instances of beaches closing or experiencing advisories in California due to polluted waters, which represents a quarter of closures and advisory notices nationwide in 2012.
Still, California carried the prize for having the most "superstar" beaches, a title earned when a location receives five stars under the NRDCs grading system that includes not only water quality, but best practices. Three earned the rating, and all were in Orange County: Bolsa Chica, Newport Beach, and San Clemente State Beach.
The state also had three beaches earn a different kind of title: "repeat offender." Avalon Beach on Catalina Island and two beaches in Orange County -- Doheny State Beach and Poche County Beach -- were noted for their persistent contamination problems over the past five years.
There are over 400 beaches along California's thousands of miles of ocean and San Francisco Bay coastline. Eight percent of samples taken at California beaches exceeded national recommended health standards, and 10 percent of beach water violated the state's daily maximum bacterial standards:
The non-profit is urging changes at the federal level to address the findings that continue year to year. If successful, those changes could lead to changes locally. One example of what localities can do is Los Angeles, which has completed the last phase of a $40 million-plus dry-weather runoff diversion project that diverts eight storm drains along the Pacific Coast Highway into a sanitary sewer system and to a treatment plant. Dry-weather runoff was to be the most common cause of advisories issued.