Coastal Water Quality Impact of Stormwater Runoff from an Urban Watershed in Southern California

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Field studies were conducted to assess the coastal water quality impact of stormwater runoff from the Santa Ana River, which drains a large urban watershed located in southern California. Stormwater runoff from the river leads to very poor surf zone water quality, with fecal indicator bacteria concentrations exceeding California ocean bathing water standards by up to 500%. However, cross-shore currents (e.g., rip cells) dilute contaminated surf zone water with cleaner water from offshore, such that surf zone contamination is generally confined to <5 km around the river outlet. Offshore of the surf zone, stormwater runoff ejected from the mouth of the river spreads out over a very large area, in some cases exceeding 100 km2 on the basis of satellite observations.

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