Beaches along the Santa Monica Bay have become safer for swimming over the past five years and pollutants from wastewater discharged into the bay have decreased significantly in the last several decades, according to a recently released status report of the bay.

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission has released its State of the Bay Report, which provides a comprehensive and current analysis of the environmental conditions of the bay, for the first time in over five years. The report, which offers the latest assessment of Santa Monica Bay’s ecological health, was released at the State of the Bay Conference January 13th at Loyola Marymount University.

The first study was published in 1993, addressing the bay’s physical, biological and sociological setting, sources of contamination and the effects of pollution on its resources and public health.

The latest report found that wastewater pollutants have decreased through source control programs and treatment upgrades at the two largest treatment works. Beaches have become safer for swimmers as a result of reduced pathogen contamination during summer months, the report states. Approximately 2.2 million people live in the Santa Monica Bay watershed area, the commission notes.

According to the study, the restoration commission and its partners have acquired and preserved more than 8,000 acres of open space in bay watershed since the late 1990s.

Due to increased efforts to clean up dry weather flows during the summer, beaches generally have met public health guidelines in those months. But water quality at the beaches remains poor during the wet season, the report found.

Trash that enters the bay from the watershed continues to be a source of marine debris and can pose a potential hazard to public health and harm aquatic life, the commission said. Efforts to reduce the amount of trash have increased dramatically over the last five years and additional measures will need to be initiated to decrease other sources of marine debris, the report states.

The commission noted that various changes in approach and behavior have led to progress in protecting the bay, and the commission and its partners are ready to face new challenges addressed in the updated Bay Restoration Plan.