La Jolla Beaches Ace Ocean Water Quality Tests

Valorie Hirsch | June 19, 2023

Heal the Bay releases its annual Beach Report Card for 2022-2023, showing off La Jolla’s impressive scores in ocean water quality.

Every year, the environmental nonprofit organization Heal the Bay evaluates the water quality on the California coast, including La Jolla. After rigorous testing, they grade each coastal area, and most of the gorgeous blue waters along the coast of La Jolla tested incredibly well.

The grades, A-F, “are based on fecal bacteria pollution concentrations in the wave-wash,” and “the better the grade a beach receives, the lower the risk of illness to ocean users,” the report says.

The report focuses on three different periods of the year, organizing them by category: Summer Dry (Apr-Oct), Winter Dry (Nov-Mar), and Wet Weather (Year-Round).

Heal the Bay states:

“Coastal counties in California received 50% more rainfall than the 10-year average during the winter months. California experienced 19 large storm events (called atmospheric rivers) from October 2022 to March 2023, which is far higher than the six the state typically gets.”

Yeah, we still remember!

Ocean water samples were taken from ten spots off La Jolla’s coast. Here are the highest-scoring areas:

Missing grades

If you’re wondering why there are missing grades in the Winter Dry category, the record rainfall is a huge part of why–samples collected in the Winter Dry time frame were during wet weather.

Another reason is that “some agencies conduct year-round sampling, while others scale back their monitoring programs dramatically from November through March, despite the fact that many ocean-goers are in the water year-round,” according to the report. 

Collecting samples during winter is also not mandated under Assembly Bill 411, as ocean water use typically decreases in those months.

Heavy rainfall

Heavy rainfall can negatively affect beach water quality due to the weakening of critical infrastructure, overflow of sewage lines, and street runoff, which runoff into the ocean. Rain runoff and the potential health risks are why beachgoers, swimmers, and surfers are urged to stay out of the water for at least three days after a heavy rainfall event. 

Wet Weather Grades in Southern California were below average, with only 52% of SoCal beaches receiving A and B grades. La Jolla’s beaches are fortunate enough to have received A grades and higher!

Ocean water quality in enclosed beaches

One of La Jolla’s most popular beaches, La Jolla Cove, last received an F in the 2016-2017 reporting year and was one of Heal the Bay’s “Beach Bummers.” The current report (p.55) still reflects very poor scores for La Jolla Cove.

The failing scores are partly due to the large harbor seals and sea lion population, which causes an increase in bacteria levels in La Jolla Cove. La Jolla Cove would be considered enclosed beaches on Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card.

Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card says that enclosed beaches “have little wave action and poor water circulation, which leads to generally worse water quality. Due to their calm waters, enclosed beaches are inviting for small children and are frequently preferred by parents and given names like Mother’s Beach.” La Jolla’s Children’s Pool is a good example of this. 

Enjoy La Jolla’s beaches and stay informed

Overall, though, La Jolla’s ocean water quality is looking good. Those visiting La Jolla can celebrate the good scores, enjoy our beaches and ocean, and understand the risks of entering waters with low scores. 

Visitors should note that the grades in the report are not what’s happening in real time, so to stay updated with weekly grades, conditions, and health advisories, visit

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