90% of UK beaches do meet water standards

Out of 502 beaches and bathing sites in England and Wales only ten failed basic water quality standards, new government figures have revealed.


Water quality met EU standards at 90 per cent of beaches, however although these figures are much improved on the figures of only 86 per cent last year, many have criticised the quality standards, which were made 35 years ago.


Campaigners have claim, “meeting an outdated and inadequate standard is nothing to shout about”.


“Almost all of our beaches meet the minimum standards now, compared to just three-quarters in 1991,” said Christine Tuckett from the Environment Agency.


But Andy Cummins, from Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Many beaches may be meeting woefully inadequate water quality standards set down 35 years ago, but this still leaves bathers exposed to significant numbers of sewage spills, with possible serious health implications.”


New more stringent standards are planned to come into force in 2015, Tuckett revealed. And work to tackle persistent sources of pollution and make sure as many beaches as possible pass these standards is underway.


“We are moving in the right direction,” said Cummins. “The top end of the new standards will give you some pretty good water quality.”


The Environment Agency stated it had helped gain further investment from the water industry for environmental improvements.


Heading to the beach?

The Environment Agency is encouraging beach-goers to check the water quality of their favourite swimming spots before taking the plunge as the school summer holidays start.

There is now more information than ever before to help the public decide where, and when, to swim.

The Environment Agency has published detailed profiles on the cleanliness of some 500 bathing water sites across England and Wales.

Detailed information about each beach can be seen online and include maps, photos and links to the latest water quality results. These profiles were created to help the public make more informed choices about the best locations to visit and enjoy.

* Bathing water profiles

Record number of beaches meet highest standards

Last year, a record number of beaches and inland bathing waters in England and Wales reached the highest European standards in water quality. Over eight in ten beaches met the EU “guideline” standard across England and Wales – compared to just three in ten in 1990.

However, there is more work to do to drive further improvements in water quality. The Environment Agency is working hard with others to identify and tackle sources of pollution at all bathing sites.

Christine Tuckett, Environment Agency Head of Bathing Water, said:

“These profiles provide the most comprehensive information yet on the cleanliness of bathing waters, helping the public to make more informed choices about the best locations to bathe.

“A record number of beaches reached the highest European standards last year but we are not complacent. The Environment Agency is working hard to tackle all sources of pollution, alongside beach users, local authorities, farmers and water companies.”

In addition to the extensive information available in the profiles, the Environment Agency is supporting water companies, local authorities and Surfers Against Sewage in trialling a “real-time” warning service to alert when Combined Sewer Overflows discharge at certain locations.

Andy Cummins, Campaigns Director for Surfers Against Sewage, commented:

“The bathing water profiles are a significant step forward in the provision of public information about important coastal environments. Beach lovers, including many SAS members, can learn about the environmental impacts on their coast.

“The launch of SAS’s Sewage Alert Service finally makes available to the public the real time facts about sewage pollution at over 50 well used beaches nationwide. Providing this vital information will help all beach goers both avoid the potential health risks of sewage contaminated waters and reassure them of water quality.”