County Adds Sites, Faster Tests to Check Beach Water Quality

Beach water quality testing

This Labor Day weekend, local beachgoers can feel more confident about frolicking in the ocean, thanks to a couple of enhancements to the County’s beach water testing program.

San Diego County’s Department of Environmental Health (DEH) now has a testing tool that allows officials to alert beachgoers faster than ever before when the water is not safe due to potentially harmful levels of bacteria. The tool, implemented countywide at the beginning of summer, is the fastest standard test approved by the state.

“This testing method allows us to confirm dangerous bacteria levels within 24 hours, when before it took between two and four days for test results to come back,” said Lars Seifert, Land and Water Quality Division chief for the County’s Department of Environmental Health. “The test also enables us to lift beach closures a lot faster once sample results confirm the water is meeting state health standards.”

In addition to speeding up the process, DEH has also expanded its testing locations in the South County. This summer, the County’s beach water quality program is sampling water quality along southern beaches at nine locations, compared to four locations in previous years.

This doubles the number of testing locations between Coronado and Tijuana. DEH will also increase the testing frequency during the winter, when the risk of sewage-contaminated Tijuana River flows is higher due to rains.

By then, test results may come back even sooner, thanks to a new and even faster water sampling method that is awaiting final approval from the Environmental Protection Agency and State Water Board. That test would speed up the reporting process to within a few hours.

The public can see beach water conditions at any time on the County’s “Check In Before You Get In” website at sdbeachinfo.com.

A Team Effort

The County’s beach water quality program works alongside local cities and wastewater agencies, who sample weekly and report results to the County. The County also operates its own testing facility at the Health and Human Services Agency’s Public Health Laboratory, where staff analyze ocean water samples collected by DEH staff.

In all, the County’s beach water quality program protects residents and visitors by testing and evaluating water conditions for harmful bacteria levels at more than 90 local beaches and bays.

Katie Cadiao is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact