California's dirtiest and cleanest beaches of 2022

With beaches around the state generally having excellent water quality during the 2021 summer months, but less so during the wet season, Orange County beaches Wednesday dominated an environmental group's annual honor roll of coastline stretches with excellent year-round water-quality grades.

The report 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, according to Heal the Bay.  

Here's a list of the most polluted beaches: 

  • Playa Blanca (Baja California, Mexico)
  • Erckenbrack Park (San Mateo County)
  • Marlin Park (San Mateo County)
  • Santa Monica Pier (Los Angeles County)
  • Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach, at lifeguard tower (Los Angeles County)
  • Moonstone County Park (Humboldt County)
  • Newport Bay, Vaughn’s Launch (Orange County)
  • Lakeshore Park (San Mateo County)
  • Marina del Rey Mother’s Beach, between lifeguard tower and boat dock (Los Angeles County)
  • Tijuana Slough, North of Tijuana River Mouth (San Diego County)

A total of 51 beaches around the state landed on Heal the Bay's Honor Roll, indicating top-rate water quality grades recorded year-round. Orange County led the way with 19 beaches making the cut, up from 10 last year. Los Angeles County had six beaches on the list, down from seven last year.

Orange County beaches making the good list were Dana Point Harbor Youth Dock, Dana Point Harbor Guest Dock, Poche, Doheny, Doheny State Beach at the end of the park, Doheny State Beach at the last campground, Corona Del Mar, Crystal Cove, Marine Science Institute, Dana Point Capistrano County Beach, Doheny State Beach pedestrian bridge, Dana Strands, Huntington City Beach at 17th Street, Bolsa Chica Reserve at flood gates, Surfside Beach at Sea Way, San Clemente at Avenida Calafia, Salt Creek, Laguna Lido and Treasure Island.

In Los Angeles County, beaches making the grade were Venice City Beach at Brooks Avenue, Rancho Palos Verdes Long Point, Royal Palms State Beach, Palos Verdes Estates at Malaga Cove Trail outlet, Las Tunas County Beach at Pena Creek and Nicholas Beach at San Nicholas Canyon Creek.

Los Angeles County had three beaches land on Heal the Bay's Beach Bummer List of the 10 most polluted beaches statewide. Two of those beaches were stretches of Mother's Beach in Marina del Rey, while the third was the Santa Monica Pier, which returned to the list after being absent last year. Mother's Beach in the Marina is an almost annual fixture on the Beach Bummer List, thanks to its enclosed location with little water movement.

Orange County had one beach land on the Bummer List -- Newport Bay at Vaughn's Launch.

According to Heal the Bay, 94% of California beaches tested for water quality received A or B grades during summer of 2021, which the environmental group called roughly on par with the five-year average. During wet weather, however, only 66% of California beaches had good or excellent grades, which is slightly above the annual average, but "still very concerning," according to Heal the Bay.

"It is wonderful news that most beaches in California have good water quality for swimming," Tracy Quinn, president/CEO of Heal the Bay said in a statement.

"But there are areas with poor water quality that need improvement and infrastructure upgrades. We can't forget that our marine ecosystems are still threatened by the climate crisis and other pollution sources, and we need solutions to address these pressing issues as well. We expect people to increasingly seek out ocean shorelines and freshwater swimming holes to cool off as temperatures rise, so safe, clean and healthy water is needed now more than ever."

Heal the Bay officials said polluted ocean water can present a major health risk for swimmers and surfers. According to the group, people who enter water receiving a C grade or lower in Heal the Bay's report are at higher risk of illnesses including stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and rashes.

You can read the full report by tapping or clicking here.