Our analysis of fecal indicator bacteria sampled data from beaches in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico finds that, in 2020:
- The water at 328 beaches – more than 1 in every 10 beaches surveyed – was potentially unsafe on at least 25 percent of the days that sampling took place.
- More than half of all the 3,166 beaches reviewed were potentially unsafe for swimming on at least one day tested.
NOTE: Beaches were considered potentially unsafe if fecal indicator bacteria levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Beach Action Value” associated with an estimated illness rate of 32 out of every 1,000 swimmers. Many states use other thresholds for beach closure and advisory decisions, and therefore results presented here may differ from state reports on beach water quality.
Primary sources of fecal contamination include sewage overflows and runoff pollution.
To curb this contamination and help make our beaches safe for swimming, policymakers should invest in improving our water infrastructure, especially by deploying nature-based solutions to prevent runoff pollution.