San Diego County will be implementing a Beach Water Management Tiered System to inform beach-bound people of water conditions.
County officials say it is a part of an ongoing commitment to inform and protect the public’s health. Implementation begins July 1.
An “Advisory” sign will be posted for awareness when water testing results exceed state health standards, but no known sewage exists, and the water is not moving south to north. This sign will be posted when testing levels of bacteria found in the water show that may cause illness.
The new “warning” category will join existing advisories and closure categories and aims to inform the public that the beach water may be polluted with sewage that can cause illness. The sign will be posted when testing exceeds State health standards, and when ocean conditions are pushing waters from the south to the north.
The new warning category will be implemented and evaluated by the end of September.
“Warnings will help people make their own decisions about whether to enter recreational waters. Previously, test results and a south swell would have resulted in a beach closure,” the county wrote in a statement.
Beach closures are issued if there are known sewage impacts. This sign will appear following reported sewage spills or when the Tijuana River is flowing and reaching recreational waters. According to the county, the sign can also appear when county environmental health experts verify sewage odors or water discoloration.
Last month, San Diego County became the first coastal county in the nation to use DNA-based ocean water testing technology that will rapidly deliver results on bacteria levels. DNA-based droplet-digital polymerase chain reaction testing technology — ddPCR —will produce faster results and warnings of bacteria levels throughout the shoreline.
According to County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Nora Vargas, there are plans to expand the technology to more than 70 miles of shoreline for regular testing.
“Faster results,” she said, “are going to allow the County to issue or lift beach advisories on the same day samples were collected. And it reduces the time the public could unknowingly be at risk and … when the water is contaminated.”
County officials encourage beach-goers to enjoy the water if no signs are posted.
More information about the quality conditions and risks can be found at sdbeachinfo.com.