Santa Cruz County evaluates bacterial water quality at beaches and freshwater locations in accordance with State requirements.
Based on the most recent sampling (August 9th), the following locations are under health advisories. Data for each monitoring location can be viewed using the online map.
- Cowell Beach
- Main Beach at Boardwalk
- Twin Lakes
During a health advisory, there is a risk of illness from direct exposure to contaminated water. It is recommended to avoid swimming, wading, and other direct contact watersports when there is a health advisory or if beaches are closed. Please be aware that water quality can deteriorate during and after rainfall, especially near river mouths and storm drains. A precautionary health advisory is in effect for 72 hours following rain events.
If you have questions about water quality within the County, please contact the water quality program.
Santa Cruz County has permanently posted eight creeks and lagoons due to impaired water quality (listed from North to South):
- Antonelli Pond
- Moore Creek Lagoon
- Neary Lagoon outfall at Cowell Beach
- San Lorenzo River mouth
- Schwann Lagoon at Twin Lakes Beach
- Soquel Creek mouth at Capitola Beach
- Porter Gulch Creek at New Brighton Beach
- Aptos Creek at Rio del Mar Beach
Cyanobacterial Bloom Update
The County cyanobacterial toxin monitoring program uses a tiered approach to detect evidence of cyanobacterial blooms. The monitoring program focuses on shoreline testing of Pinto and Kelly Lakes and various lagoons along the coast. Surveillance for cyanobacterial blooms is ongoing. Currently, there is no evidence of cyanobacterial toxins at any County monitoring locations.
Please note that it is important to avoid swimming, wading and other watersports during a cyanobacterial bloom. When toxins are present, you could be inadvertently exposed by swallowing water, inhaling droplets or direct skin contact. Cyanobacterial toxins can cause rashes, skin or eye irritations, stomach upsets or other reactions. Pets are also vulnerable to toxicity and should be restrained from entering the water or drinking from the shore if a bloom is present. More information harmful algal blooms is available from:
Pinto Lake Fish Advisory
The California Environmental Protection Agency issued a FISH CONSUMPTION ADVISORY for fish from Pinto Lake to prevent potential exposure to mercury from the Lake sediments. The health advisory provides guidance on several types of fish including Black Bass, Carp, Goldfish, Sunfish and Bullhead.
Contact Information & Regional Water Quality Websites
Please report water quality concerns to the Water Quality Laboratory at 831-454-4624 or the Environmental Health Office at 831-454-2022. Please contact the Laboratory if you observe evidence of an illicit discharge. Illnesses related to water exposure can be reported at this link. The County conducts follow-up investigations, as needed.
For questions about the monitoring program or iif you would like to arrange for water testing, please contact the Water Quality Laboratory at 831-454-4624.
Mussel Quarantine in Effect from May through October 2022
The annual California Department of Public Health (CDPH) quarantine of sport-harvested mussels begins on May 1, 2022. The quarantine policy applies to all species of mussels that are recreationally harvested along the California coast, including all bays and estuaries.
The quarantine season is intended to prevent exposure to the marine biotoxins that can be associated with mussels and clams who feed on plankton along the California coast. The consumption of shellfish may cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) or domoic acid poisoning.
Early symptoms of PSP include tingling of the lips and tongue, which may begin within minutes after eating toxic shellfish. These symptoms are typically followed by loss of balance, lack of muscular coordination, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing. In severe poisonings, complete muscular paralysis and death from asphyxiation can occur.
Additional information on shellfish advisories and quarantines is available here and also from CDPH’s toll-free Shellfish Information Line at (800) 553-4133.