Concentrations of E. coli in recreational beach water are highly variable both locally and temporally, but a broader understanding of these fluctuations may be explained through coastal observations. Currently, beach contamination study approaches tend to be site-specific underthe belief that politically delineated beaches are unique and management of beaches cannot be regionally oriented. E. coli data collected over five years from 23 Chicago beaches clearly identified ambient linked patterns at the regional scale. Temporal fluctuations were similar, with all beaches having simultaneous peaks and troughs of E. coli concentrations. Spatially, E. coli concentrations for beaches more closely situated were more closely correlated, indicating spatial autocorrelation. Julian day, wave height, and barometric pressure explained up to 40% of the variation, a value comparable to individual, less parsimonious site-specific models. Day of sampling could explain the majority of the variation in E. coli concentrations, more so than beach, depth, or time of day. Comparing beaches along a targeted coastline allows a better understanding of inherent background regional fluctuations and, ultimately, better predictions of E. coli concentrations in coastal recreational water.