Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area beaches received good marks on Heal the Bay’s annual Beach Report. Every year, the nonprofit organization ranks the beaches and freshwater sites it tests for bacterial pollution. The recent 17-million-gallon sewage spill at Santa Monica highlights the need for water quality monitoring and accountability.

The thirty-first annual Beach Report Card study assigns A-to-F letter grades for 500 California beaches based on levels of fecal-indicator bacterial pollution in the ocean measured by County health agencies. In addition, Heal the Bay ranked water quality at 28 freshwater recreation areas in Los Angeles County during summer 2020 and shared findings from the third annual River Report Card.

Six of the top ten beaches were in the local area, and not one local beach was on the Beach Bummer list this year. To earn a place on the honor roll, a beach must receive a full year of top marks. 

Leo Carrillo State Beach was number 3 on the honor roll, followed by Puerco, 4; Las Flores, 5; Broad Beach at Trancas Creek, 6; and Escondido Beach, 7.

Only one Los Angeles County beach received a failing grade: perpetually polluted Mother’s Beach at Marina Del Rey.

The water samples are taken at locations where creeks and storm drains empty into the ocean. This year’s local good results may be influenced to some extent by the extreme lack of rain—more than 50 percent of all beaches tested receive failing grades during wet weather—but clean water on the local coast is welcome news.

“A day at the beach and the river shouldn’t make anyone sick,” said Dr. Shelley Luce, President and CEO of Heal the Bay. “With the closures, stress, and uncertainty of the pandemic, it is no surprise that people sought out our local waters in 2020. While we’re thrilled about the excellent water quality across California, our marine ecosystems are still threatened by climate change and other pollution sources.”

The full list of winners and losers, as well as the freshwater report are available online. Beaches are graded weekly, and Heal the Bay recommends checking beachreportcard.org and healthebay.org/riverreportcard before heading to the beach for the latest water quality information. Other safety tips include: 

  • 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 a rain event.