Each year, California celebrates Swimmable California Day on July 25th – a day celebrating all Californians’ right to clean and safe water for swimming, playing, and enjoying.
Yet after nearly 50 years of clean water protections under the federal Clean Water Act, nearly 95% of California’s lakes, bays, wetlands, and estuaries are too polluted to swim, drink, or fish. Toxic metals, bacteria, pesticides, and fertilizer wash into rivers from our cities, neighborhoods, and agricultural fields each time it rains. Sewer systems failures can also introduce raw sewage into our waterways.
Meanwhile, Californians trying to beat the heat are often plagued with harmful algal blooms that occur during hot summer months, when river flows are low and temperatures are high, and are exacerbated by nutrient pollution.
Californians need to know if – and where – it’s safe to swim.
This is why California Coastkeeper Alliance is supporting Assembly Bill 1066 (AB 1066), a bill authored by Assemblymember Bloom and sponsored by our partners at Heal the Bay, to identify and recommend monitoring at popular swimming sites and keep our families safe.
Nearly twenty-five years ago, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 411 to protect ocean-goers from serious illnesses such as stomach flu, respiratory illness and debilitating ear, nose, and throat infections, which are contracted from fecal contamination in the water by requiring monitoring and notification of our beaches’ water quality. Assembly Bill 1066 expands this important program beyond the coast, defining priority recreation sites along our rivers and lakes and recommending water quality standards and monitoring programs to keep those areas safe.
For the millions of Californians who do not live near the coast or for whom the coast is not easily accessible, California’s rivers, lakes, and streams are the places we go to cool off and enjoy time with friends and family. We need to make sure that every Californian is safe when they go out to swim – no matter if it is along a river or along our coast.
This Swimmable California Day, consider making a donation and becoming a member to help protect our waters – and help keep California swimmable, everyday.
Policy Manager Kaitlyn Kalua represents CCKA and its member Waterkeepers in state regulatory and legislative forums to advance statewide water policy.