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Tools to Evaluate and Manage Beach Health

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  • Beach Sanitary Surveys

    A sanitary survey is a method of investigating the sources of fecal contamination to a water body. Sanitary surveys help state and local beach program managers and public health officials identify sources of beach water pollution, assess the magnitude of pollution, and identify priority locations for water testing. Beach sanitary surveys involve collecting information at the beach, as well as on the surrounding land.

    EPA developed a beach sanitary survey tool, one each for marine and Great Lakes beaches, to help beach managers evaluate all contributing beach and watershed information including water quality data, pollution source data, and land use data. The tool consists of three types of beach sanitary surveys, in paper and electronic form (so that the data can be entered and stored in a database).


  • Monitoring

    Monitoring the water at beaches helps beach managers know how clean the water is for recreation. Monitoring methods help beach managers identify levels of fecal bacteria that indicate conditions that might harm swimmers in recreational waters. These methods also help beach managers detect and prevent marine debris.


  • Predictive Models

    Predictive models are useful tools for beach managers to protect the health and safety of the public. Models can be used in conjunction with beach water quality monitoring to determine whether a beach is safe for recreational uses.


  • Analytical Methods

    The Clean Water Act requires that municipalities and industries analyze the chemical, physical and biological components of wastewater, which is carried eventually to our coasts. EPA publishes laboratory analytical methods, or test procedures, for conducting these tests. Most of these methods are published as regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Title 40 Part 136. This link provides methods for analyzing biological pollutants in ambient water. It also includes rapid microbiological methods for ambient waters and videos about a rapid method for monitoring pathogen indicators called qPCR.

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