Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card

It’s a beautiful day at Topanga State Beach, but how clean is the water this kite surfer is sailing over? Find out at beachreportcard.org. Photo by Suzanne Guldimann

Heal the Bay’s 29th annual Beach Report Card reveals that the Woolsey Fire and subsequent heavy rains impacted local beaches over the winter. 

The report assigns A to F letter grades for 500 California beaches, based on weekly levels of bacterial pollution in the ocean. This year’s report found that California beach water quality declined in 2018-19, driven in large part by increased rainfall, but nearly 85 percent of the beaches monitored in Southern California earned A grades during the 2018 summer season, which is good news for local surfers and swimmers.

A total of 33 California beaches made it on Heal the Bay’s Honor Roll—perfect A+ grades each week all year. While none of the local beaches were on the list, none of them landed on the infamous “Beach Bummer” list for the beaches with the water quality, although the report found that water quality at Malibu’s beaches decreased dramatically after the fire. 

Three of the four Malibu beaches on last year’s “honor roll” fell off the list. The only one not impacted by the fire was Las Tunas Beach at Pena Creek, just west of Topanga State Beach, which received A+ ratings all year. Big Rock Beach was a runner-up, with an “A” rating for summer dry weather, an “A” rating for winter dry weather, and an A+ for winter wet weather. Castlerock Beach, east of Topanga, also received two As and an A+.

Many Malibu beaches in the Woolsey Fire burn zone received wet weather failing grades this year, including the usually clean Zuma and Leo Carrillo, and Little Dume at Walnut Creek.

Topanga received an “A” for summer dry weather, a “B” for winter dry weather, and an “F” for winter wet weather.

“A day at the beach shouldn’t make anyone sick,” said Dr. Shelley Luce, president and CEO of Heal the Bay. “We are glad to see water quality improving at some beaches, but there are no guarantees. Anyone headed to the shoreline should visit Heal the Bay’s new Beach Report Card with its NowCast website and app to get the latest grades and predictions.”

Polluted ocean waters pose a significant health risk to millions of ocean users in California, who can contract a respiratory or gastrointestinal illness from one morning swim or surf session. Coming into contact with beach water that has a grade of C or lower greatly increases the risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and rashes.

For a detailed look at beach results by location, why some beach types are more vulnerable to higher levels of pollution, and detailed report methodology, please refer to the complete report. A PDF version of the 2018-19 annual Beach Report Card is available at https://healthebay.org/beach-report-card-nowcast-2019/.


  • Check b​eachreportcard.org​ for latest water quality grades (available on ​iOS​ & ​Android)​
  • Avoid shallow, enclosed beaches 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


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