In the report, “2013 Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” the national environmental action group rated 200 of the top beach destinations in the U.S. for water quality and monitoring and notification practices through a five-star rating system.
The two beaches in Gulf Shores rose to the top and are among 13 that received a five-star rating for meeting or exceeding the following standards.
- Less than five percent of water samples exceeded national standards in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
- Less than five percent of water samples exceeded national standards in 2012.
- Local officials post advisories without re-sampling.
- Closings/advisories posted online and at beach.
- Water quality monitored more than once a week.
The other winning beaches include three in California: Bolsa Chica Beach, Newport Beach and San Clemente State Beach; two in Delaware, Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach; two in Minnesota, Park Point Franklin Park and Lafayette Community Club Beach; two in New Hampshire, Hampton Beach State Park and Wallis Sands Beach; and rounding out the list are Ocean City, Maryland, and Bay City State Recreation Area in Michigan.
In Alabama, Little Lagoon Pass Beach in the West Beach area of Gulf Shores as well as Dauphin Island received four stars, only missing the coveted five-star status because water quality is not monitored more than once a week in those areas.
The NRDC report is available online with an interactive map that pinpoints more than 3,000 beaches along the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. The study raises awareness of water quality issues by presenting ratings, beach closings and swimming advisories.
According to NRDC, the main culprit in many beach closings across the country is stormwater runoff with untreated sewage spills and overflows prompting advisories and closings, if necessary.