SANTA MONICA, CA - MAY 21: Barriers warn people to stay away from a drainage that carries dangerous levels of bacteria into the ocean south of Will Rogers State Beach May 21, 2008 north of Santa Monica, California. A new annual beach report card by Heal the Bay indicates that ocean water quality has improved overall statewide - partly because lower than normal rainfall means less polluted run-off washing from storms drains - but the waters of Los Angeles County beaches remain the most bacteria-laden seawater in the state for the third straight year. Heal the Bay tests more than 500 locations on the California coast for daily and weekly fecal bacteria pollution levels. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Swimmers may want to think twice before jumping in the water at Bay Area beaches.
Since 2005, the number of annual tests for bacteria has dropped by nearly half, leaving swimmers, surfers and divers at risk of exposure to contaminated water.
According to the Times,
Beaches from San Diego to the Bay Area are being tested less often and in fewer locations; some are going untested for months at a time. Statewide, the number of annual tests for bacteria has dropped by nearly half since 2005, according to a Times analysis of state records.
Officials say state budget cuts are a key factor in the scaled back testing.
According to state reports, the Trestles surf break in Southern California was tested only four times last year, compared to nearly 70 times in 2005.
California passed a law in 1999 that requires health officials to test at least once a week during the summer beach season. If bacteria levels are too high, lifeguards post signs warning swimmers of the risk.
While this news is discouraging, experts say overall water quality is better than in years past. They credit that to better sewage treatment plants and our recent drought conditions.