County of Marin - News Releases - Beach Water Quality

For Immediate Release
June 10, 2016

Beach Water Quality Ratings Strong in Marin

Heal the Bay gives A or B marks to 22 locations

San Rafael, CA – Marin County received very good or excellent grades in Heal The Bay’s new 2015 water quality ratings for beaches.

A view of Chicken Ranch Beach, with sand in the foreground and kayakers in the water in the distance.Chicken Ranch Beach on Tomales Bay.
Marin’s water quality monitoring program, overseen by the Marin County Community Development Agency’s Environmental Health Services Division (EHS), gathered data last summer from 22 bayside and oceanside monitoring locations. All but one location received A or B grades in Heal the Bay’s annual Beach Report Card; in three samples, Muir Beach received a C with two Bs.

The ocean locations (Dillon Beach, Lawson’s Landing, Bolinas Beach/Wharf Road, Stinson Beach, Muir Beach, Rodeo Beach) and the bayside locations (Baker Beach, Schoonmaker Beach, China Camp, McNears Beach) were monitored weekly from April through October, or what Heal the Bay calls the summer dry season.

Two samples were collected during the winter wet season, and the results were very good, with 18 of the 22 locations receiving an A grade. Four locations received poor to failing marks: Stinson Beach (D), Baker Beach Horseshoe Cove NW and NE (Fs), and China Camp (F).

There were three reported sewage spills in Marin, all in the Richardson Bay/Sausalito area that prompted a beach closure. Sixteen other sewage spills reached creeks, rivers, streams, sloughs, and bays prompting nine non-beach-related health warnings.

Overall, there were 19 total spills in Marin from April 2015 through March 2016 that reached a surface water body, down from 31 during the same span a year earlier. Of the 19 spills, two were considered major sewage spills (more than 10,000 gallons), two were minor (1,000 to 10,000 gallons), and 15 were small (less than 1,000 gallons).

Statewide, 94 percent of 456 beach locations received A or B grades during the summer dry months, up from 91 percent a year ago. Northern California beaches had 89 percent A or B grades, up from 86 last year and approaching the five-year average of 91 percent. Locally, 38 of 40 monitored locations between Marin and the San Mateo County coast were graded A or B.

Heal the Bay, based in Santa Monica, has analyzed water quality data at California beaches each year since 1991. It also rated beaches in Oregon and Washington. The Beach Report Card is funded by grants from the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association and the Grousbeck Family Foundation. See the full report at

Marin EHS has monitored 27 ocean, bay and freshwater sites since 2003 and posts sample results weekly. Local results from freshwater sites have not been as good as the marine beaches. In 2015, the County issued 37 warnings along San Geronimo and Lagunitas creeks compared with 34 in 2014.

If lab results indicate water samples exceed State of California standards for recreational waters, a warning sign is posted to alert the public that bacterial standards were not met. The California Department of Public Health advises beach users to avoid contact with recreational waters where warning signs are posted. People in contact with elevated bacteria levels in recreational waters may become ill.

Learn more about the testing program on the webpage.


Lorene Jackson
Project Manager, Environmental Health Services
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 236
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7146
Email: Lorene Jackson
Environmental Health Services