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.

Critical Coastal Areas Map Viewer

The Coastal Commission’s staff has developed an online GIS-based map viewer application for the CCA program. The CCA Map Viewer will allow users to learn the location and boundaries of the CCAs, as well as other relevant information including water quality impairments along the coast.

How CCAs were Identified

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.

CCA Factsheets

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.

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Regional Maps of CCAs

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.

  • Map 1: Del Norte and Humboldt Counties
  • Map 2: Mendocino, Sonoma, and Marin Counties
  • Map 3: San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties
  • Map 4: San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties
  • Map 5: Ventura and Los Angeles Counties
  • Map 6: Orange and San Diego Counties
  • Map 7: San Francisco Bay Area