Cowell’s Beach Success: Another Year of Improved Water Quality

(Santa Cruz, CA) For the third consecutive year, Cowells Beach is not included on the annual “Beach Bummer” list – a major victory and continued improvement for public health and water quality in Santa Cruz. 

Heal The Bay’s annual Beach Report Card, released this week, shows that the iconic City of Santa Cruz beach located west of the Municipal Wharf continues with water quality success in weekly levels of ocean bacterial pollution.

“This is fantastic news,” said Mayor Sonja Brunner. “The bacteria data measurements are even better this third year that Cowell Beach remains off the ‘Beach Bummer’ list. This bodes well for public health and our local economy.”

This water quality, measured by independent analyses reported in 2021 by the City of Santa Cruz Environmental Laboratory and Santa Cruz County Environmental Health Department, derives from the continuing combined efforts by City of Santa Cruz staff and Cowell’s Working Group. Their work previously revealed and addressed the issue of birds roosting on or near the Wharf as a major source of past water quality issues.

A Health Advisory Sign from 2016 when Cowells faced severe water quality issues.
Cowells Beach thriving with improved water quality for families, community members and tourists alike.

“The Cowells Working Group has proven again that great outcomes can come from getting the right people together. This is a group of people that truly care for Cowells and the results from this year’s report card show that,” said Shaun Burns, Coordinator for the Santa Cruz World Surfing Reserve.

Cowell’s Working Group was launched in 2014 at the direction of the Santa Cruz City Council. The response came from over a decade of worsening water quality at the famous Santa Cruz beach and a reputation at the top of the list several years in a row.

It includes representatives from the City, Santa Cruz County, Save The Waves Coalition, Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation with the mission to study and develop recommendations to improve the water quality at Cowell Beach. 

A critical factor in the Cowell Beach water quality success has been the installation of bird screening designed to reduce pigeons and gulls roosting and defecating under the Wharf.  Another important installation has been the sliding gates placed at Neary Lagoon to keep bacteria-infested water there from flowing through a storm outlet vault and onto Cowell Beach during summer months. A third installation of a steel plate at the Neary outfall pipe below sea level has diverted the flow of bacteria-laden water to the Wastewater Treatment Facility for treatment and disinfection.

The City and Cowell’s Working Group will continue their efforts with plans to further monitor water quality and enhance public understanding of the situation at Cowell Beach.

Learn more about Cowells initiative here

Learn more about the Santa Cruz World Surfing Reserve here.


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