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Source: County of San Diego

June 30, 2022 (San Diego) -- On July 1, the County of San Diego will begin using a new beach water safety category and signs at local beaches in its continuing efforts to educate and protect the public’s health. The system rolls out just as a new round of beach health warnings was issued yesterday for beaches from the border north through Coronado’s beaches due to contamination from sewage in Mexico.

The new “warning” category will join the existing advisory and closure categories. Warning signs will tell beachgoers that beach water may contain sewage and may cause illness if people come into contact with it. With transboundary south swell conditions expected this Fourth of July weekend, warning signs may be posted at South County beaches.

The warnings, however, do not currently include dog beaches, so dog owners should check status of nearby beaches since some dogs have fallen seriously ill from contaminated coastal water at the Coronado dog beach in the past, including a dog owned by a former ECM reporter.

Here are the category differences:

Advisory Category

An advisory sign is posted for awareness for beachgoers when test results exceed State health standards, but no known sewage conditions exist, and water is not moving from south to north. When an advisory is posted, it means people have a higher chance of getting sick based on testing levels of contaminated water.

New Warning Category

A warning sign will be posted for beachgoers when testing exceeds State health standards AND south swell (transboundary flow) ocean conditions are pushing waters from the south to the north. A warning indicates that even though sewage impacts are not verified, sewage may be in the water due to the south swell  conditions. 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.

Closure Category

Beach closures are issued if there are known sewage impacts. This means it is known for sure there is sewage in the water, and to protect the public’s health, State law requires the closure of affected beaches. Closures follow reported sewage spills, or when the Tijuana River is flowing and reaching recreational waters, or when County environmental health experts verify sewage odors or water discoloration reported by lifeguards, beach managers, and/or surfers/swimmers.

The new warning category will be implemented through the end of September to evaluate how well it serves the public and our communities.

No Signs

No signs posted? No need to worry, just enjoy the beach! 

County officials encourage residents and visitors to learn more about water quality conditions and risks by using the QR code on posted beach signs or by visiting for more information.

In May, the County became the first coastal county in the United States to start using rapid, DNA-based water quality testing technology (ddPCR) that produces faster results.  This technique came after nearly 10 years of testing, pilot programs, and working with federal, state and local agencies.

You can learn more about each of these beach water quality management categories on DEHQ’s popular “Check in Before You Get In” website.


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