Cowell Beach Water Quality Success Continues Third Year on Heal the Bay Annual Beach Report Card


 | June 23, 2022

SANTA CRUZ — For the third consecutive year, Cowell Beach is not included on Heal the Bay’s “Beach Bummer” list. The environmental nonprofit’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 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.

“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 is where we want to be to support public health and our local economy.”

Cowell’s Working Group was launched in 2014 at the direction of the Santa Cruz City Council. 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.

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

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.

More information on Cowell Beach water quality improvement is available at


City of Santa Cruz Laboratory and Environmental Compliance Manager Akin Babatola spoke at the June 2020 press event announcing the first of three years that Cowell Beach dropped off of Heal the Bay’s “Beach Bummer” list.

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