Bay Crossings Article

Free App Lets You Find Clean Beaches

Deb Self
From the July 2013 edition of Bay Crossings

Looking for a Bay Area beach with water clean enough for swimming, surfing and playing in the sand? Download San Francisco Baykeeper’s free Swim Guide smartphone app at The app and the website allow you to see, at a glance, whether it’s safe to go in the water at more than 40 local Bay and ocean beaches.

The Swim Guide is updated weekly, using information from government authorities. Baykeeper provides the Swim Guide in partnership with the Waterkeeper Alliance, our international network of 200 clean water protection groups worldwide.

Keep in mind that the Swim Guide lets you do more than just find clean water. You can get directions to beaches, view photos, learn which beaches are good for children and recreation, plus share the information on social networks. You can also use the Swim Guide to immediately report water pollution to Baykeeper. We will investigate, notify the proper agencies and make sure authorities address the problem.

The Swim Guide is useful in summer months, when lots of us like to get in and on the water. Most Bay Area beaches are clean during summer, although a few are sometimes unsafe.

During the rainy season, the Swim Guide is even more useful. That’s when Bay Area beaches are most likely to be unhealthy, because rain washes bacteria and other pathogens from sewer systems into the water. These contaminants can cause illness in both wildlife and humans. Right after a rain, water quality is generally at its worst, and it’s a good idea to wait three days after rain before going in the water.

The Bay gets hit with this unhealthy pollution every rainy season, because outdated Bay Area sewer systems spill millions of gallons of sewage into the Bay and its tributaries. But now, Baykeeper is making steady progress toward a sewage-free Bay.

We’ve won legally-binding agreements that compel the region’s worst-polluting sewage systems to make needed upgrades. Sewer agencies serving 20 Bay Area cities are required to repair leaky pipes and replace crumbling infrastructure, on an exact, year-by-year schedule. Some have already reduced sewage spills by 75 percent. We’ll make sure these repairs continue until sewage ceases to be a major pollution problem for the Bay.

Baykeeper is also working to further improve the Bay Area beach experience by cleaning up a badly contaminated local beach, Point Molate Beach Park in Richmond. The beach has been blighted for years by hundreds of huge piling logs contaminated with creosote, a now-banned wood preservative. With help from volunteers, we have safely cut these logs into smaller chunks and we’re getting them off the beach, along with metal shards, tires, and other large discarded objects—a total of 100 tons of debris.

The cleanup is almost complete, and this month the city of Richmond is reopening the park, which has been closed for a decade. A true treasure and one of the last remaining undeveloped sites along San Francisco Bay, Point Molate beach should soon be healthier for both recreation and wildlife.

If you’re going on a vacation, the Swim Guide also covers over 5,000 beaches in the U.S. and Canada, including over 400 in California. The app is available in vehicles rented from Hertz in the Bay Area and in many popular U.S. beach cities.

All beaches need to be healthy for recreation and wildlife, and Baykeeper is working to make it happen. See you on or in the water!