Southern California boasts a world-class beach culture. But who wants to show off their bikini/speedo bod on sand contaminated with pollution washed off the streets of Santa Monica and Malibu? Pollution from storm runoff causes many beach closings, which costs local businesses money.

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However, a 10-year-long study of 26 beaches in southern California found that beach attendance increased after systems to divert storm runoff were put into place. The research was published in Marine Pollution Bulletin.

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“Cost has many municipalities opposed to installing storm drain diversion systems, but the data showed these investments pay off,” said study co-author Linwood Pendleton of Duke University in a press release. “Beyond their effectiveness as a tool for managing pollution in coastal waters, storm drain diversions increased attendance at individual beaches in the region by 350,000 to 860,000 annually.”

Storm water runoff diversion systems channel water into sewage treatment systems. For example, in 2007, the City of Malibu opened a storm water treatment facility capable of processing 1,400 gallons per minute of runoff. The system first screens trash and other large pollutants from the water. Then the water is filtered and disinfected with ozone, a triple-oxygen molecule capable of destroying disease-causing microorganisms, such as Escherichia coli, fecal coliform bacteria and enterococcus bacteria.

IMAGE: Santa Monica beach (Jon Sullivan, Wikimedia Commons)