While the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper issued warnings for several local beaches this month in response to increased bacterial levels, water quality has likely returned to a safer state by today.
A monthly survey of water conditions revealed that, starting in December, all area beaches recorded increased bacterial presence, many of which exceeded acceptable health standards. In November, only two regional beaches were noted for having unusually high bacterial levels. The increased bacterial levels around the county since last month are attributed to record rainfall that has contributed to urban runoff, which flows into the ocean through storm drains or by trickling from higher elevations down to the coast.
According to Channelkeeper’s Executive Director Kira Redmond, this is a common phenomenon in coastal urban areas after heavy, sustained rainfall.
“Usually after rain storms there is more runoff from the urban landscape,” Redmond said. “Such results are not unusual.”
However, Redmond said water conditions return to healthy standards for entry several days after rainfall.
“The County’s Public Health Department warns people to stay out of the water for 72 hours after a rainstorm,” Redmond said. “After that, the water will begin to naturally revert back to a more natural state.”
Although Channelkeeper did not issue a warning this month for Goleta Beach, Sands Beach at Coal Oil Point and Butterfly Beach were included on the list of those that fell short of state health standards since December.
The locations remained open to the public, but Channelkeeper advised that beach-goers avoid entering the water due to a higher risk of contracting illness.
“We do weekly testing of bacteria at all the local beaches, and bacteria levels [were] elevated above public health standards at more than half the beaches,” Redmond said.
Second-year political science and sociology major Jake Hughson said accurate, accessible water quality information is important for ensuring that coastal residents remain safe and healthy in their interactions with the ocean.
“I think that having the information readily available is beneficial for water-goers, and it is definitely something that should be considered after any significant rain,” Hughson said. “I, personally, will typically surf regardless of the water quality, which is why I am also sick rather frequently.”