This summer people can take a dip at more bathing beaches than ever before along the English coastline.
As the bathing water season begins this week, visitors to the seaside will have 422 bathing spots to choose from after nine new beach locations have been designated as official bathing waters along the south coast.
The Environment Agency tests water quality at every official bathing water to ensure it is maintained and improved. Last year, water quality remained high with 98.3% of bathing waters in England meeting the tough standards. 92% of these locations achieved the top rating of Excellent or Good.
Beach-goers can check out the water quality at their nearest bathing water spot by visiting the Environment Agency’s online map at the Bathing Water Data Explorer website.
Helen Wakeham, Deputy Director of Water Quality at the Environment Agency, said:
“It is wonderful news that more beaches have been given bathing status in time for the start of the 2018 season. Water quality has improved at English beaches giving locals and tourists a better experience as well as benefiting the environment.”
“Water quality tests are published online, me and my family will certainly be searching the online map before heading off to enjoy time at the beach this summer.”
“The Environment Agency will continue to work with water companies, councils and local communities to keep our beaches clean, reduce pollution and protect our environment. We are working to achieve the goal in Defra’s 25 Year Plan to minimise the harmful bacteria in our bathing waters by 2030.”
During the bathing water season environment officers will take up to 20 samples at each location, from now until the end of September. Samples will be tested in Environment Agency labs for cleanliness. This year, in addition to sampling water quality, Environment Agency teams will also carry out surveys of plastic pollution on beaches. This data will help target our work and support community action.
Dramatic improvements have already been made over the last two decades to prevent pollution ending up in the sea, but there is always more to do.
Pollution from sewage and from agriculture are generally recognised as the two most significant sources but there are some local variations. Surveys have shown that around a third of bathing water pollution is caused by agriculture. This year the Environment Agency is rolling out new rules for farmers to ensure best practice is followed and pollution from farms is reduced.
Water companies have done a lot over the last two decades to improve infrastructure investing over £2.5 billion on projects that have improved water at swimming beaches.
To go further the Environment Agency are advising water companies on the investment they should be making to protect the environment, these include measures to protect water quality as well as being more resilient to flooding and potential water shortages. Environment Agency proposals include that water companies should improve 24 bathing waters between 2020-2025.
All members of the public can help keep water clean by taking all rubbish with them after visits to the beach, not leaving dog mess on the beach and at home never flushing wet wipes or pouring fats down drains.
Heavy rain is likely to reduce water quality in the short term, even at Excellent beaches. Information on the Bathing Water Data Explorer website may advise against swimming and there could be temporary signs at beaches.
The nine new beaches have become official bathing waters following suggestions from councils, feedback from public consultations and a decision by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
All the new bathing waters will have signage to show they are official swimming spots and the Environment Agency will test water quality regularly.
One of the new beaches is in Bournemouth, Manor Steps beach. Eight of the new locations are in Cornwall: South Fistral beach in Newquay, Booby’s Bay near Trevose Head, Mexico Towan, Upton Towan and Godrevy, all situated on a long stretch of dunes in St Ives Bay, Northcott Mouth beach to the north of Bude, Gwynver Beach which forms part Whitesand Bay and Tregonhawke in Whitesand Bay.