Latest report on the coastal water quality

Cape Town – The City of Cape Town’s latest report on the coastal water quality has shown three popular swimming spots have regressed into the ’’poor’’ category on the Atlantic coastline – Hout Bay beach, Bakoven bungalows and Camps Bay tidal pool.

On the False Bay coastline, water quality also regressed into the poor category at:

  • Boulders Beach,
  • Clovelly,
  • Mnandi Beach west and east.

Chronic coastal water quality problems

Areas that reported chronic coastal water quality problems in 2019, and remained as such last year, are:

  • Lagoon Beach,
  • Three Anchor Bay,
  • central False Bay, and
  • Macassar to
  • Gordon’s Bay.

When compared with 2019, the water quality at seven locations improved in 2020: at Small Bay, Llandudno Beach, Scarborough beach, Beta beach, Maiden’s Cove (both tidal pools) and Camps Bay beach.

The latest report covers coastal water quality for a 12-month period from 1 December, 2019 to 30 November, 2020. It reflects the outcome of statistical analysis as set out by the National Guidelines of 2 400 bacterial sample tests taken from 99 sites along Cape Town’s 307km of coastline.

Report findings over 12 month period

’’The 2020 report indicates that, overall, there have been no significant changes in coastal water quality in Cape Town between 2019 and 2020. Marginal improvements have been noted in some areas.

’’Also, in instances of a ‘poor’ rating, this can mostly be attributed to three or fewer samples or discrete spikes in bacteria counts, as opposed to consistently high counts of bacteria.

’’Importantly, overall, the trend and pattern remains constant where stormwater outlets and river mouths remain significant sources of pollution. This confirms, once again, that sewer blockages and overflows, illegal discharges, and general urban run-off and waste disposal discharged via the city’s stormwater system and rivers have a significant impact on our coastal environment and coastal water quality.

’’The City is doing all it can to improve coastal water quality through various interventions. However, we cannot do it on our own. We need residents to assist by taking responsibility for their waste.

’’The quality of Cape Town’s coastal water concerns all of us, and we have to work together to prevent pollution,’’ said the City’s mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Marian Nieuwoudt.

’’The release of the second Know Your Coast report confirms the City’s commitment to transparency and disclosure about the quality of Cape Town’s coastal waters.

’’It also serves as a source to inform and educate the public on the shared responsibility between all stakeholders to prevent the pollution of our inland water sources because whatever lands up in our rivers and canals drains into the sea.’’

Beaches to avoid swimming at in Cape Town – latest coastal water quality report

The water quality at Hout Bay beach has regressed into the ’’poor’’ category. File picture: Hillary Fox /


In summary, the key findings are as follows:

Atlantic coastline

  • In 2020 the water quality at 19 out of the 24 recreational beaches and tidal pools met the minimum requirement for recreational activities such as swimming, surfing, etc.
  • When the data is analysed over the last five years (2016 to 2020), it shows that there has been a marginal water quality improvement at seven recreational nodes, especially at beaches along the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula, among which Maiden’s Cove, Camps Bay, Beta Beach, Llandudno, and at Small Bay along the northern Atlantic coast.

False Bay coastline

  • In 2020, the water quality at 15 of the 27 recreational beaches and tidal pools met the minimum requirement.
  • When compared with 2019, the water quality improved at six locations: Frank’s Bay, Simon’s Town Long Beach, St James tidal pool, Muizenberg Station, Strandfontein tidal pool, and Gordon’s Bay.
  • At four locations, water quality regressed into the ‘poor’ category: Boulders Beach, Clovelly, Mnandi Beach west and Mnandi Beach east.
  • When data is analysed over the last five years (2016 to 2020), water quality has shown gradual improvement at eight locations along the False Bay coast: Frank’s Bay, Simon’s Town Long Beach, Glencairn Beach, Muizenberg Station, Strandfontein, Strandfontein tidal pool, Monwabisi tidal pool and Gordon’s Bay.

Beaches that do not have stormwater outlets or are far away from river mouths usually have ’’good’’ or ’’excellent’’ water quality ratings. This highlights the impact of urban pollution on the coastline and waste via the stormwater system and rivers on nearshore coastal water quality.

’’The City is determined to improve the water quality in these areas. We will implement interventions to see an incremental improvement of the water quality along the False Bay coast in particular,’’ Niewoudt said..

The results of the most recent reporting period are added to a five-year rolling period – from 2016 to 2020 – to determine trends in coastal water quality for recreational beaches in Cape Town.

This five-year rolling period reflects the outcome of over 10 000 sample bacterial tests along the coastline to better understand where challenges are experienced and to identify interventions if required; and also to determine where interventions have been effective over the five-year period.

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