Coastal Beach Water Quality

three images of coastal beaches in a banner.

View the Coastal Beach Map for Water Quality Information

Public beaches in New York State are overseen by local health departments, the Department of Environmental Conservation, or the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation.

Water quality monitoring and public notification activities at coastal beaches located along the Great Lakes (Lake Erie and Lake Ontario), Long Island Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean are supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s BEACH Act Grant program.

Protect our Beaches

  • Clean up after pets and properly dispose of their waste.
  • Do not feed waterfowl at the beach.
  • Always use a bathroom or adequate sanitary facilities.
  • Make sure your sewer line and septic system is properly working and well maintained. Inappropriate connections, failing septic systems, and leaking sewers can affect beach water quality.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Coastal Beach Map has water quality information for New York State Department of Health-regulated coastal beaches located along the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound, and Great Lakes.

Check with your local health department, the Department of Environmental Conservation, or the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation for information about other beaches operated by those agencies.

Beaches are either open for swimming, under a water quality advisory, or closed for swimming if the status listed. When a beach is closed or under an advisory, a reason is provided. If the reason is water quality-related, it it is because water samples or other information, such as rainfall or algae, indicate that there is likely a higher risk of illness from swimming.

Beach water quality monitoring is the process of taking a sample of water from beaches to measure the concentrations of bacteria in the water. These measurements are used to make decisions about beach operation related to the potential risk of contracting illness through contact with water at the beach.

Typically, beaches more susceptible to pollution are monitored more frequently during the beach season and susceptible coastal beaches are monitored at least weekly. However, a beach may be monitored more or less frequently due to other factors. Non-coastal beaches are monitored at a frequency established by the local jurisdiction. For more information about a specific beach, please contact the appropriate agency who implements the beach monitoring program.

Water pollution caused by fecal contamination is a public health concern because swallowing or contact with disease causing microorganisms in feces such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoa can make people sick. Collectively, these agents are known as pathogens or germs. It is not practical to routinely test for pathogens because there are many types and they may be present at low levels. Instead, indicator bacteria such as enterococci or E. coli are measured to assess beach water quality. These bacteria are usually present in larger numbers than other fecal pathogens, easier to identify, and respond to the environment and wastewater treatment similarly to many pathogens. As a result, testing for enterococci or E. coli bacteria is a reasonable indication of whether water is contaminated with fecal pollution.

Enterococci and E. coli bacteria can come from the same sources as pathogenic organisms, such as sewage discharges, failing septic systems, storm water runoff, and animal and agricultural waste. E. enterococci and E. coli can also be present in sediments and algae material in quantities that can affect the beach water.

Beach water quality standards are specified in Subpart 6-2 of the New York State Sanitary Code. The maximum allowable enterococci concentration for a single sample is 104 per 100 milliliters (ml) in marine water and 61 per 100 ml in fresh water. For E. coli, the maximum concentration is 235 per 100 ml. E. coli cannot be used to assess marine water. There are also standards for a 30-day geometric mean; 35 enterococci/100ml for marine water and 33 enterococci/100ml or 126 E. coli/100ml in fresh water.

When water sample results indicate that beach water quality standards are not met, the beach is either closed to swimming or an advisory is issued stating that a standard has been exceeded.

More Information

Other Resources


  • Contact the local health department that permits and inspects the beach. You can find this out by viewing “Jurisdiction” listed under each beach in the Coastal Beach Map.
  • For more information on coastal beach water quality, email: or write to us at the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Community Environmental Health and Food Protection, Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower, Room 1395, Albany NY 12237