Heal the Bay’s annual “report card” was released Wednesday, providing a ranking of the cleanest and dirtiest beaches along California’s coast.

The organization graded 700 beaches along the West Coast, based on bacterial pollution. It gave 94% of California beaches grades of A or B for water quality during the dry summer period between April and October 2021. Meanwhile, the dry winter period from November 2021 through March 2022 saw a slightly below average of 88% of beaches receiving A and B grades. 

This year, 51 out of over 500 monitored beaches made it on the “Honor Roll” list compared to 35 last year. Those beaches received an A+ for all seasons and weather conditions.

Below average rainfall amid the drought may have resulted in a small improvement in beach water quality during wet weather periods, since less rainfall means reduced amounts of pollutants being flushed into the ocean, Heal the Bay says in its report.

Still, West Coast waters have been impacted by several major spills over the past year, including a ruptured sewer main that sent 7 million gallons of sewage into the Dominguez Channel, a massive sewage spill from Los Angeles’ Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant and a 25,000-gallon oil leak from a pipeline off the coast of Huntington Beach.

“Unfortunately, this past year saw an unprecedented 30 million gallons of sewage enter waterways in coastal areas of California, and this figure does not include the millions of gallons of sewage that regularly enter the ocean through the Tijuana River,” the report states.

Dirtiest beaches

The following beaches received the poorest grades and were dubbed “beach bummers” by Heal the Bay:

  1. Erckenbrack Park, San Mateo County
  2. Marlin Park, San Mateo County
  3. Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles County
  4. Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach at lifeguard tower, Los Angeles County
  5. Moonstone County Park, Humboldt County
  6. Newport Bay, Vaughn’s Launch, Orange County
  7. Lakeshore Park, San Mateo County
  8. Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach, between lifeguard tower and boat dock, Los Angeles County
  9. Tijuana Slough, North of Tijuana River Mouth, San Diego County

Playa Blanca in Tijuana, Mexico also made the list because it is impacted by sewage-contaminated runoff from the Tijuana area.

Santa Monica Pier returned to the “Beach Bummer” list for the first time since 2018.

Water samples were checked for three fecal indicator bacteria: total coliform, fecal coliform (E. coli), and Enterococcus species.

Since most pollutants enter the ocean through storm drains, rivers, and streams, residents were advised to avoid contact with ocean water around storm drains and river outlets.

Best-rated beaches:

To earn a spot on the “Honor Roll,” a beach must be monitored all year and receive an “A+” grade for water quality during all seasons and weather conditions.

That’s partly why the list is typically dominated by Southern California beaches, according to Heal the Bay. The organization said many Northern and Central California don’t monitor beach water quality year-round.

For a second straight year, Orange County had the most beaches on the “Honor Roll.” Dana Point and Doheny State Beach each have multiple locations on the list.

Treasure Island Beach made the “Honor Roll” for a third consecutive year, and Crystal Cove made its second consecutive appearance.

Most of Los Angeles County’s top-rated beaches this year are on the Palos Verdes Peninsula or the Malibu area.

Here are the beaches that scored the highest, according to Heal the Bay:

In L.A. County:

  1. Venice City Beach, at Brooks Ave. drain
  2. Rancho Palos Verdes, Long Point
  3. Royal Palms State Beach Los Angeles
  4. Palos Verdes Estates, at Malaga Cove trail outlet
  5. Las Tunas County Beach, at Pena Creek
  6. Nicholas Beach, at San Nicholas Canyon Creek

In Orange County:

  1. Dana Point Harbor Youth Dock
  2. Dana Point Harbor Guest Dock
  3. Poche Beach
  4. Doheny Beach
  5. Doheny State Beach, End of the Park
  6. Doheny State Beach, at Last Campground
  7. Corona Del Mar
  8. Crystal Cove
  9. Marine Science Institute Beach
  10. Dana Point, Capistrano County Beach
  11. Doheny State Beach, Pedestrian Bridge
  12. Dana Strands Beach
  13. Huntington City Beach, at 17th Street
  14. Bolsa Chica Reserve, at Flood Gates
  15. Surfside Beach, at Sea Way
  16. San Clemente, at Avenida Calafia
  17. Salt Creek Beach
  18. Laguna Lido
  19. Treasure Island

In San Diego County:

  1. Del Mar, at 15th Street
  2. Carlsbad, at Tamarack Ave.
  3. Carlsbad, at Poinsettia Lane
  4. Carlsbad, at Encina Creek
  5. Carlsbad, at Palomar Airport Rd.
  6. Carlsbad, at Cerezo Drive
  7. Oceanside, at Forster Street
  8. Oceanside, Harbor Beach at Harbor Drive
  9. Point Loma, Lighthouse
  10. Point Loma, Point Loma Treatment Plant
  11. Sunset Cliffs, at Ladera Street
  12. Mission Beach, Belmont Park
  13. La Jolla Shores Beach, 1000 ft south of Scripps Pier
  14. La Jolla Shores Beach, 250 feet south of Scripps Pier
  15. La Jolla Shores Beach, 500 feet north of Scripps Pier

In Santa Barbara County

  1. Guadalupe Dunes
  2. East Beach, at Sycamore Creek
  3. El Capitan State Beach
  4. Sands, at Coal Oil Point

In San Luis Obispo County

  1. Cayucos State Beach, downcoast of the pier
  2. Pismo Beach, at Ocean View
  3. Pismo Beach, at Wadsworth Street
  4. San Simeon State Beach, at Pico Ave.
  5. Morro Strand State Beach, at Beachcomber Drive
  6. Pismo State Beach, 571 yards south of Pier Ave.
  7. Pismo State Beach, 330 yards north of Pier Ave

Ventura County typically makes the list but Heal the Bay said no beaches in the county made the list this year because they weren’t monitored sufficiently to receive grades for the winter season.