Fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) were measured approximately 5 days a week in ankle-depth water at 19 surfzone stations along Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, California, from 1998 to the end of 2003. These sampling periods span the time before and after treated sewage effluent, discharged into the coastal ocean from the local outfall, was disinfected. Bacterial samples were also taken in the vicinity of the outfall during the pre- and post-disinfection periods. Our analysis of the results from both data sets suggest that land-based sources, rather than the local outfall, were the source of the FIB responsible for the frequent closures and postings of local beaches in the summers of 2001 and 2002. Because the annual cycle is the dominant frequency in the fecal and total coliform data sets at most sampling stations, we infer that sources associated with local runoff were responsible for the majority of coliform contamination along wide stretches of the beach. The dominant fortnightly cycle in enterococci at many surfzone sampling stations suggests that the source for these relatively frequent bacteria contamination events in summer is related to the wetting and draining of the land due to the large tidal excursions found during spring tides. Along the most frequently closed section of the beach at stations 3N-15N, the fortnightly cycle is dominant in all FIBs. The strikingly different spatial and spectral patterns found in coliform and in enterococci suggest the presence of different sources, at least for large sections of beach. The presence of a relatively large enterococci fortnightly cycle along the beaches near Newport Harbor indicates that contamination sources similar to those found off Huntington Beach are present, though not at high enough levels to close the Newport beaches. ?? 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.