Communities: Swimming at our Nation's Beaches

Our nation's beaches provide a wealth of recreational activities for both residents and visitors. Clean sand and water are critical to a healthy swimming experience and the overall coastal tourism industry.

33,127 days

Number of days that had closures and advisories at U.S. ocean, bay, and Great Lakes beaches in 2011.

Source: EPA, 2012


Percent of our nation's monitored beaches that were affected by a notification action.

Source: EPA, 2012


Percent of beach visitors that reported getting sick after swimming at beach waters open for swimming in the Great Lakes.

Source: NRDC, 2010

$21 to $51 million

Yearly estimated public health cost of excess gastrointestinal illnesses caused by poor water quality in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, CA.

Source: Given, et al., 2006

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Download Beach Closures Interactive Map and Data (652kb)

Source: Environmental Protection Agency, 2011 Beach Notification Summary

About this Topic

Swimming at our nation’s beaches and other beach related recreational activities are critical for the overall coastal tourism industry. The data for this topic, obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, shows that in 2011 there were over 33 thousand beach days that had closures or advisories and about 43 percent of the monitored beaches in the nation were affected by a notification action. However, only 59 percent of the nation’s beaches were being monitored in 2011. The Closer Look section of this topic includes a Coastal Voices segment featuring a video with pro surfer Kelley Slater discussing the problem of marine debris on beaches. Also included in the Closer Look section is a Case Study on how A Closed Beach Affects Local Economies and two Management Success stories, one on the EPA Clean New England Beaches Initiative and the other on The Great Lakes Sanitary Survey.