Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches

Polluted urban and suburban runoff is a major threat to water quality at the nation’s coastal beaches. Runoff from storms and irrigation carries pollution from parking lots, yards, and streets directly to waterways. In some parts of the country, stormwater routinely causes overflows from sewage systems. Innovative solutions known as green infrastructure enable communities to naturally absorb or use runoff before it causes problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is modernizing its national rules for sources of runoff pollution and should develop strong, green infrastructure-based requirements. Wisconsin has 193 public beaches along 55 miles of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan coastline. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources coordinates Wisconsin’s beach monitoring program and administers BEACH Act grants. Unusually heavy rainfall and wet conditions at many coastal beaches in Wisconsin in 2010 may have contributed to elevated bacteria levels compared with previous years.


Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center