Mexico Beach Water Pollution Advisory
Due to industrial contamination, sewage and unfavorable ocean currents, coastal seawater often contains high concentrations of unhealthy bacteria, known as enterococci. This bacteria is found in the feces of most humans and many animals. Among the most antibiotic resistant bacteria isolated from humans, enterococci can commonly cause diarrhea, skin, ear, wound, and urinary tract infections, among other illnesses.
To reduce environmental and health risks and to generate public awareness, the Mexican Ministries of Health, Navy, Travel and Environment have collaborated to develop a system, in accordance with criteria set by the World Health Organization (WHO), to monitor the cleanliness of coastal seawater. According to the established criteria, seawater that exceeds 500 enterococci per 100 milliliters is considered of sanitary risk.
Monitoring efforts were initiated in 2003 for a targeted 181 recreational beaches in all of Mexico's 17coastal states. In the first trimester of 2004, according to federal reports, 20 of these 181 public beaches were determined as a sanitary risk. To conform with the Transparency and Access to Government Information Act, this information is available to the public from the Secretary of the Environment's webpage, http://www.semarnat.gob.mx. It is however not yet available in English.
The 1st semester reports for the year 2006 show no reports of beach water at sanitary risk. Still though, monthly sampling indicates that contamination is not necessarily the result of built up polluting but instead of random events. If you are concerned with the quality of the beach water at your beach, we recommend you contact the tourism department for updated reports and avoid swimming in questionable waters.
Northern Baja: Many beaches along the Pacific coast of Baja California are not suitable for swimming. Red beach flags are clear indications that you must not swim, but under varied systems in use in Baja, so are yellow, green and blue flags. The only real go-ahead sign is a white flag – and even then, remember there are no lifeguards – and often beaches may not be marked at all. Do not interpret the absence of a beach flag to mean conditions are safe, but instead check with locals, a hotel concierge and (in the case of Ensenada, for example) with the tourist office.
Southern Baja: For the same reason that the region is a surfing Mecca, many beaches on the Pacific side of Baja Sur are not at all safe for swimming, especially not for children or the elderly. Sharp declines on shore lines, rough surf, strong currents and undertows and dangerous rip tides make it unwise to swim anywhere other than a pool. Even on beaches considered to be safe – and where you may see other swimmers – check both the warning flag system and ask for local advice on conditions before braving the waves. The Sea of Cortés is safe for swimmers.