Here in Gulf Shores, we've always known our beaches are some of the finest in the United States. Sugar sands, warm waters, ample activities in and out of the water, who could ask for more? As it turns out, our beaches are also some of the cleanest in the country, according to the international environmental advocacy group, The Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Natural Resources Defense Council tests ocean and freshwaters in staggered spots all across the United States, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and rates these beaches for their cleanliness and monitoring effectiveness. Of 13 beaches rated as 5 star beaches for safety, water quality testing, and low violation rates, our area was able to boast 2 of them; Gulf Shores Public Beach and Gulf State Park Pavilion (see the NRDC site for beach ratings here). To become a NRDC "superstar beach" you must meet or exceed the following standards:
- Less than 5% of water samples exceeded national standards in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
- Less than 5% 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.
In addition to those 2 beaches, Little Lagoon Pass Beach, another Gulf Shores beach, also received a high rating of 4 stars, only missing out on the 5 star rating because water quality is monitored once every 2 weeks there.
Why It Matters
Beach safety is very important, and clean water is a major aspect of that. No one wants to get sick at the beach, from rashes to gastroenteritis (stomach flu). Younger children are particularly at risk of coming down with something from unclean water. Our Gulf Shores condos are lovely, but sitting inside from a bug can ruin a vacation for the whole family.
Most of clean water violations are due to bacteria, an indication of human or animal waste products/sewage in the water. Stormwater runoff is a significant source of the problem, and communities not equipped to deal with this problem have more closed beach days.
Here in Gulf Shores we take water quality seriously, and strive to keep all of our beaches as safe as they are spectacular. We are pleased to shine a spotlight the two 5 star beaches that NRDC has chosen, and proud of how they reflect upon our coast.