When tourists visit Southern California, many are drawn to the pristine beaches and sparkling blue water. But a new study has found that the water may not be as safe as it looks.
The Natural Resources Defense Council's annual report on beach contamination said that L.A. and Orange County health officials took 4,500 fewer samples of water off of Southern California Beaches last year than in 2008, the result of budget cuts to the Beach Monitoring Program.
Members of the group fear that some beaches may have remained open, with high bacteria levels in the water.
"Less testing may lead to fewer pollution warnings, but it doesn't make our beaches any cleaner," said Noah Garrison, attorney for the National Resources Defense Council's Water Program. "In order to keep our beaches safe for swimmers and surfers, it's critical that we test for pollution and also stop it at its source."
The report says that among the beaches testing the highest for contamination are Surfrider Beach in Malibu, Santa Monica State Beach and Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. All are near massive storm channels.
"The bacteria in our beaches is coming from pollutants on the streets, on the surfaces, they get washed into the bay with storm water," according to Shelley Luce of Santa Monica Bay Restoration.
The National Resources Defense Council's long term solution is to have people stop using rivers to a garbage drain to the sea.
They recommend builders replace materials like concrete on roads and parking lots and the like, and use porous materials like asphalt instead.
"This allows water to flow right through it and infiltrate into the ground where it can recharge local ground water and it can provide a local source of water," according to Noah Garrison, attorney for the National Resources Defense Council's Water Program.
That will keep the water in local areas instead of draining right into the ocean.
The good news is Southern California still has plenty of five star beaches, the highest grade available.
"Beaches like Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Bolsa Chica State Beach and Cardiff State Beach all present a terrific opportunity for residents and tourists to go to the beach and be in clean water," recommends Noah Garrison, attorney for the National Resources Defense Council's Water Program.