Many of our state’s coastal waters — rivers, creeks, lakes, lagoons, bays, estuaries, and the ocean — are degraded or threatened by polluted runoff, which can harm aquatic ecosystems, public health, and the local economy. Polluted runoff — also known as nonpoint source (NPS) pollution — is generated by a variety of land use activities, including urban development, agriculture, and forestry.
Numerous local and regional groups are active in water quality protection and restoration efforts in California’s coastal watersheds. In addition, most cities have polluted runoff control programs, and 28 state agencies have responsibilities for implementing the state’s NPS Program.
California’s Critical Coastal Areas (CCA) program aims to foster collaboration among local stakeholders and government agencies, to better coordinate efforts to protect high resource-value coastal waters from polluted runoff. This non-regulatory program, which is part of the state’s NPS Program, is coordinated by Coastal Commission staff.
This online GIS-based map viewer shows the location & boundaries of each CCA, plus relevant information including coastal watersheds; polluted (impaired) waterways & Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plans to reduce pollutants; Areas of Special Biological Significance; Marine Protected Areas; Principal Bays & Estuaries; local government planning jurisdictions (Local Coastal Programs & Areas of Deferred Certification, Long-Range Development Plans, and Port Master Plans); Tribal lands; Federal jurisdiction areas; Coastal Commission districts; and the Coastal Zone boundary.
The criteria used to identify coastal watersheds as Critical Coastal Areas reflect the dual goals of improving degraded coastal water quality, and providing extra protection from polluted runoff to coastal waters with recognized high resource value. The multi-agency Statewide CCA Committee selected initial criteria for identifying CCAs in 1995, and added new criteria in 2002 and 2014, resulting in the current list of 119 CCAs.
A factsheet was developed in Dec. 2019 for each CCA in the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction. Each factsheet includes a description of the CCA watershed, an overview of the land uses in the coastal watershed, the criterion used for CCA identification, a list of impaired waterbodies (indicating the pollutants) and potential pollutant sources in the CCA, and a photo of the CCA.
Seven regional maps show the location of the CCAs. Maps 1-6 were updated in 2018 to include California's Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The statewide network of MPAs protects the diversity and abundance of marine life, the habitats they depend on, and the integrity of marine ecosystems.