(Note: For the current year, data might be available only for few jurisdictions that have submitted data. For preceding years, the DNR may reflect data differently than a previously published (Archived) Annual Report, because additional data and corrections based on verification may be submitted after the Annual Report is published.)


EPA's Beach Report: 2021 Swimming Season
   
Introduction
This report summarizes information that states, territories, and tribes with coastal and Great Lakes beaches submitted to EPA reporting beach closings and advisories for the 2021 swimming season. The information in this report will cover January 1 through December 31 and include data submitted to EPA as of May 20, 2022.

The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act of 2000 authorizes EPA to provide grants to eligible states, territories, and tribes to monitor their coastal recreational waters adjacent to beaches used by the public for attainment of applicable water quality standards for pathogens or pathogen indicators, such as bacteria, that indicate the possible presence of disease-causing pathogens and to notify the public when there is a potential risk to public health. EPA awarded approximately $9.2 million in grants in 2020 for the 2021 season. The BEACH Act requires that grant recipients report their monitoring and notifications data for coastal recreational waters to EPA and that EPA maintain a publicly accessible electronic database of those data. This report is based on those data. Information on grouped or individual jurisdictions or beaches can be found at https://watersgeo.epa.gov/BEACON2/about.html.
   
2021 Swimming Season Results
States, territories, and tribes take water samples to monitor the water at swimming beaches to see if levels of specific indicator bacteria (e.g., enterococci) exceed the water quality standards that apply to that water. "Program beaches" have, at minimum, a program to notify the public if swimming in the coastal water is unsafe, and most also have a program to routinely monitor the water quality. In 2021, 68 percent of coastal and Great Lakes program beaches in the United States were monitored for pathogens or pathogen indicators. Chart 1 shows the number of beaches that were monitored and number of program beaches in each state, territory, and tribe in 2021. When monitoring results show exceedances for pathogens or pathogen indicators, states, territories, and tribes either issue a beach advisory that warns people of possible risks of swimming or a beach closing that closes the beach to public swimming. The states and local agencies that do not routinely monitor water quality use models or policies (e.g., advisory after a certain amount of rainfall) as a basis for issuing notification actions at beaches. These advisories or closures typically stay in effect until monitoring shows that levels of pathogens or pathogen indicators comply with applicable water quality standards.

   
Chart 1: Number of total and monitored coastal and Great Lake program beaches by state/territory/tribe

5,055 Program Beaches
3,447 Monitored Beaches
   
   
How many beaches had notification actions?
In 2021, 25 percent of the nation’s program beaches (1,283 out of 5,055) had at least one advisory or closing. Chart 2 shows the percent of program beaches with one or more advisories or closings in years 2017 through 2021.

   
Chart 2: Percent of nation’s program beaches with one or more notification actions
   
What are the possible pollution sources causing notification actions?
Beach advisories and closings can result from a variety of pollution sources: stormwater runoff after rainfall; pet and wildlife waste; waste from boats; leaking septic systems; malfunctions at wastewater treatment plants or broken sewer lines; overflows from sewer systems; or harmful algal blooms. To help minimize the risk to beachgoers, EPA is, for example, helping communities improve sewage treatment plants and reduce adverse impacts from rainfall as much as possible by providing water infrastructure investment loans.

States, territories, and tribes reported the possible sources of pollution shown in Chart 3 that resulted in beach advisories or closings or were identified in beach surveys at program beaches in 2021.
   
Chart 3: Reported possible sources of pollution in 2021
(Note: The percentages shown on the chart might not total 100 since only whole numbers are being shown.)
   
How many notification actions were issued and how long did they last?
States, territories, and tribes issued 7,024 beach notification actions (i.e., advisories or closings) during the 2021 swimming season. An advisory or closing is typically removed when follow-up water quality monitoring shows that pathogens or pathogen indicators comply with applicable water quality standards. For 89 percent of the notification actions in 2021, coastal recreational waters no longer exceeded applicable water quality standards and beaches were deemed safe for swimming within a week (Chart 4). In 2021, 21 percent of the notification actions lasted only one day, and 26 percent ended between one and two days.
   
Chart 4: Duration of beach notification actions in 2021
(Note: The percentages shown on the chart might not total 100 since only whole numbers are being shown.)
   

What percentage of days were beaches open and safe for swimming?
Program beaches on U.S. coasts and along the Great Lakes were open and safe for swimming 94 percent of the time in 2021. EPA calculates the total available beach days and the number of beach days with advisories or closings to better track trends over time. To calculate total available beach days, EPA adds the length of the beach season (in days) for every program beach in each state, territory, and tribe. For 2021, EPA determined that 592,178 beach days were associated with the swimming seasons of 5,055 beaches with monitoring and/or notification programs. Notification actions were reported on 36,506 days out of those 592,178 beach days. Chart 5 shows the percentage of beach days that the nation’s program beaches were open and without any advisories in years 2017 through 2021.
   
Chart 5: Percent of days the nation’s program beaches were open and safe for swimming
   

Where Can I Find More Information?
To find out more about what you can do to help protect beaches, visit https://www.epa.gov/beaches/act-beach.

To find out more about what affects beach health, visit https://www.epa.gov/beaches/learn-what-affects-beach-health.

For general information about beaches, visit https://www.epa.gov/beaches.

For current information about a specific beach, visit https://www.epa.gov/beaches/state-territorial-tribal-and-epa-beach-program-contacts.

For beach information that states, territories, and tribes have reported to EPA, visit http://watersgeo.epa.gov/beacon2.

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