Public to be better advised on bathing water

Proposals to improve bathing water around England and Wales have been published - and members of the water industry and the public are being asked for their views.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Welsh Assembly Government jointly released the document on Monday, which aims to improve water quality under the revised Bathing Water Directive.

The Directive sets more stringent microbiological water quality standards for popular bathing areas, and requires improved public information about sites, including advice against bathing in water where the minimum standard is not met.

It also introduces four new water quality classifications – excellent, good, sufficient and poor.

Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government plan to ensure all bathing waters reach at least sufficient status by 2015.

A system could also be introduced which will provide additional protection to the public by requiring local authorities and operators of private sites to advise against bathing where the Environment Agency has identified waters which may be subject to short-term pollution.

Environment Minister Phil Woolas said: “England achieved its highest ever bathing water quality results in 2006, with 99.5% of sites meeting mandatory standards, and 75% meeting the tighter guideline standards.

“This is an improvement since 1997 of 11.5 and 40 percentage points respectively.

“The tighter standards under the revised Directive mean we have got to be even more ambitious, and there will be significant benefits for all of us in delivering these improvements.”

Improvement measures will mainly be targeted at farmers, who will be required to reduce diffuse water pollution from agriculture.

A Government assessment has shown less than 10% of bathing waters need improvement to meet the new standards and predicts annual benefits will comfortably exceed the costs.

The consultation document can be found on the Defra website.

Kate Martin

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