The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says a disappointing eight beaches of 24 meet the standard required for an excellent rating while two fail to meet the basic minimum safety standards.

Years of under-investment in sewerage infrastructure combined with run-off carrying fertilisers and animal waste from the heavily agricultural province has led to poor water quality for many sections of the coastline.

Across the UK, 55% of bathing beaches received top marks compared with Northern Ireland’s 33% while just over 5% failed to make the basic grade, compared with almost 10% in NI.

Regional rainfall patterns also have a significant impact on coastal water quality – wetter weather means more sewer overflows and more agricultural contaminants washed into the sea.

Northern Ireland was in the worst affected area this year, experiencing much higher than average rainfall along with Scotland and England’s Northwest.

MCS expects recent investments from Northern Ireland Water, such as the new £45 million North Coast Waste Water Treatment Scheme, to improve bathing water quality by reducing sewage pollution to the sea from urban areas like Coleraine, Portrush, Portstewart, Castlerock and Articlave.

This is part of an overall £420 million sewerage improvement programme.

The Good Beach Guide, now in its 23rd year, is published annually by the MCS and can be found online at

Sam Bond

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