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Coastal Waters

San Diego County has introduced a rigorous and sensitive new water quality testing program that measures ocean water to ensure public safety.  On Coronado Island, water samples are taken daily and when warranted, an ocean advisory is designated and signs are posted on the beach.  This provides helpful scientific insight that our community members and visitors may use when deciding whether they wish to swim in the ocean.

San Diego County water quality results are published online as conditions change and are available here:

While the water may be off limits from time to time, Coronado’s pristine white beaches are always OPEN for year-round enjoyment.

In May 2023. Coronado Island was added to the Top 10 Beach List by Dr. Stephen Leatherman. Better known as “Dr. Beach,” Leatherman is a Scientist, Author and Professor at Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. TripAdvisor has also named Coronado Beach as one of their top choices.

Click here for a live peek of Coronado Beach! This free webcam shows the crashing waves, ocean breezes and white sand beach near the Hotel del Coronado.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is causing the occasional closure of beach water?
Baja California’s wastewater management systems is overtaxed. As a result, sewage is crossing the border from Tijuana into San Diego’s South Bay region, including Coronado.Specifically, recent studies out of UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Stanford University have identified a defunct wastewater facility in Tijuana as a major source of the pollution.
What’s been done lately to fix the problem?
Most recently, rehabilitation of the International Collector, the largest wastewater pipeline in Tijuana, will be completed by the end of May 2023 using $1 million in EPA funds and a $1 million match from Mexico. Rehabbing that pipeline it will reduce the flow of up to 7 million gallons of wastewater flow per day according to Monica Moran, an environmental engineer for the EPA.
What is the overall cost to minimize the pollution?
The Environmental Protection Agency has a $630 million plan to help mitigate the cross-border pollution. So far, over $450 million has been invested! The US (federal) government allocated $330 million in this year’s fiscal budget to mitigate the problem, with the Mexican government contributing another $144 million. A major portion if this is an effort to reroute much of the wastewater to the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant along the border in San Diego. Much of the federal funding will be appropriated to the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant, eliminating the risk of 60 million gallons of sewage per day during rainstorms. Construction is projected to begin by the end of 2023, and will take one to two years, according to IWBC documents. The final piece, the San Antonio de los Buenos Wastewater Treatment Plant, which lies about six miles south of the US-Mexico border and discharges sewage into the surf zone, will be mediated by Mexico. The project is expected to go out to bid in Fall 2023, and will take about two years to complete once construction begins.
Has water pollution gotten worse?
No, cross-border pollution from Baja California’s overtaxed wastewater system has not gotten worse. But due to the more sensitive testing, experts have learned the ocean in San Diego’s South Bay area is more polluted than previously thought.
Which beaches are monitored?
All Coronado beaches – including Tidelands Park, Coronado Beach, Silver Strand and Coronado Shores.
Are signs posted near the water?
Yes, signs will be posted if beach water is less than perfect. They include a yellow and white advisory sign when test results exceed State health standards, but no known sewage conditions exist. An orange and blue warning sign when testing exceeds State health standards and ocean conditions are pushing waters from the south (Tijuana) to the north. Even though sewage impacts are not verified, sewage may be in the water. Swimmers may enter the water at their own discretion. Red and yellow signs are posted if there are known sewage impacts. This only occurs when sewage in the water is verified. To protect the everyone’s health, State law requires the closure of affected waters.
Can I still enjoy Coronado Beach without going into the water?
Yes, the beach itself is NOT closed. Only the water will be off limits from time to time. Most times, your beach experiences are a good distance from the water. That means your programs are typically not impacted if the water along Coronado’s coast is considered unsafe. Your team will be advised to continue their program as planned, but avoid splashing, swimming or playing in the water when warning signs are posted.
Has the water on Coronado Beach closed in the past?
Closures in the area have occurred occasionally for decades. They were once thought of as largely a wintertime occurrence, exacerbated by run off from winter rains. Now, due to new highly sensitive testing, experts have come to realize water contamination can be a year-round occurrence.
What is the new test?
San Diego is the first coastal county in the nation to institute a federally approved ocean water-quality testing system that uses highly sensitive DNA technology. A joint effort involving nine years of research, the testing involves the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Public Health and researchers at UC San Diego. The test, known as droplet digital polymerase chain reaction, or ddPCR, will be expanded to more than 70 miles of San Diego County shoreline to help protect the public.
Why was new testing implemented?
Transparency. The process for devising new testing began in response to inquiries from the community about water safety. Area residents wanted faster results – and more accurate information on if the ocean could make them sick
How is the new testing different than the older means?
The old testing regime relied on taking a culture, with scientists examining water samples for bacterial growth in a lab. Experts maintain that the new DNA-based method is not only more accurate but quicker, returning results within 10 hours instead of 24. In either scenario, the presence of bacteria is considered an indicator for pathogens, such as E. coli, Vibrio and salmonella.
Is the new testing necessary?
Yes, while we may not like the occasional closures or warnings, we encourage and prioritize safety. The new testing and the closures are necessary to protect beachgoers from sometimes dangerously high levels of bacteria and viruses, according to county public health officials.
What happens if I ignore the signs and go swimming?
Swimmers who ignore the restrictions or warnings sign could be at risk of diarrhea, fever, respiratory disease, meningitis and even paralysis.
Are there any short-term solutions?
New protocols and testing measures are always in development and being considered…but there are no short-term fixes. It is wise to invest in long-term solutions that truly address the quality of water in the Pacific.
What do you recommend to swimmers if the water is off limits?
Swimmers have lots of safe options when ocean and bay water is deemed unsafe. First, Coronado’s top resorts feature lots of swimming pool options to their guests and visiting groups. Otherwise, the City of Coronado operates a public pool at the Community Center, 1845 Strand Way, Coronado, Ca. (619) 522‑7342

Want to know more?

Danielle Rossetto, our Destination Sales Director, can share the latest news and updates. Contact her at (619) 319‑5174.

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