Wave energy level and geographic setting correlate with Florida beach water quality

Zhixuan Feng, Ad Reniers, Brian K. Haus, Helena M. Solo-Gabriele, Elizabeth A. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Many recreational beaches suffer from elevated levels of microorganisms, resulting in beach advisories and closures due to lack of compliance with Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. We conducted the first statewide beach water quality assessment by analyzing decadal records of fecal indicator bacteria (enterococci and fecal coliform) levels at 262 Florida beaches. The objectives were to depict synoptic patterns of beach water quality exceedance along the entire Florida shoreline and to evaluate their relationships with wave condition and geographic location. Percent exceedances based on enterococci and fecal coliform were negatively correlated with both long-term mean wave energy and beach slope. Also, Gulf of Mexico beaches exceeded the thresholds significantly more than Atlantic Ocean ones, perhaps partially due to the lower wave energy. A possible linkage between wave energy level and water quality is beach sand, a pervasive nonpoint source that tends to harbor more bacteria in the low-wave-energy environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-60
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 15 2016


  • Enterococci
  • Exceedance
  • Fecal coliform
  • Recreational beaches
  • Water quality
  • Wave energy level

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


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