A new smartphone application can help California residents stay up to date with the area's healthiest beaches.
Swim Guide, released May 30 by Waterkeeper Alliance, uses monitoring data from government agencies to determine the water quality of more than 300 California beaches.
Orange County Coastkeeper frequently updates basic information for the area's beaches and employs the use of water quality data from the Ocean Water Protection Program.
"Every year, millions of people get sick from coming into contact with polluted water at their local beaches," Pete Nichols, western director for the Waterkeeper Alliance, said in a prepared statement. "The Swim Guide provides a free, easy-to-use, way for beach goers to find a beach where their families can swim and enjoy the beach safely."
According to the app, Orange County's worst beach is Poche Beach because its creek has terminal issues and there are high levels of bacteria in its outfall due to storm water and urban water runoff.
Because of problems like the ones at Poche, Pamela Crouch, Orange County Coastkeeper communications and marketing director, urges users to always read the descriptions of the beaches before going to them. These descriptions will give more details, like areas of high levels of bacteria.
If there is an actual closure, Crouch said, the areas will be labeled as red to "stay away."
"Rest assured if there isn't a warning, [beach-goers are] all good," Crouch said. "Coastal beaches, like Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, have better circulation of the tide."
Swim Guide users can also access directions to the closest, cleanest beach, as well as view photos and determine if the water is safe for swimming.
"Compared to about 10 years ago when we were experiencing a lot of beach closures, our beaches are doing pretty well," Crouch said. "This is attributed to better storm-water management by the Orange County cities."
A social network on the app allows users to share their experiences with friends and family, as well as report pollution immediately to the local Waterkeeper.
Swim Guide is available for free from the App Store and Google Play. The app has nearly 50,000 downloads and is in the top 200 of free reference apps in the App Store.
For more information, visit theswimguide.org.