The condition of swimming beaches indicator reflects marine water quality conditions in areas heavily used for recreation. This indicator tracks the percent of swimming beaches that pass swimming standards with no more than one exceedance of the swimming standard during the summer. Swimming beaches not meeting water quality criteria indicate increased risk of people getting sick through gastrointestinal illnesses, respiratory illnesses, and skin infections.
The percent of Puget Sound monitored and core beaches that have no more than one exceedance of the swimming standard during the summer. The number of monitored beaches varies from year to year depending on availability of funding and where water quality issues arise. Core beaches are a subset of all monitored beaches that are sampled every year. Core beaches have been used to assess the trend in the condition of swimming beaches since 2004.
Key Vital Sign Indicator Results
During the 2020 swim season, 95% of the Puget Sound marine beaches that were monitored met the recreational water quality criteria. Three of the 60 monitored beaches did not meet the recreational water quality criteria. The three beaches that had two or more exceedances of the swimming standard were Arness County Park (Kitsap County), Freeland County Park/Holmes Harbor (Island County), and Little Squalicum Park (Whatcom County).
Since 2004, soon after the BEACH program started, many local bacteria problems have been identified and corrected. There are still year-to-year fluctuations in marine water quality at swimming beaches, at times attributed to environmental factors such as weather, but many beaches are experiencing water quality improvements due to increased pollution identification work which identifies and corrects chronic issues.
Recent years show a consistently high percentage of Puget Sound marine beaches passing the swimming standard, indicating good water quality overall. However, there has not been a significant upward trend in the percent of core beaches passing since 2004, therefore progress of this indicator is described as holding steady and is classified as ‘Not Improving’.
Although the majority of monitored swimming beaches have met the standards for enterococci fecal bacteria, the recovery target of 100% was not met in 2020.
To have all monitored beaches in Puget Sound meet EPA standards for what is called enterococcus, a type of fecal bacteria.