SEPA results reveal bathing water quality improvements

Nearly 100% of Scottish bathing waters have passed European bathing water quality standards this summer, as a result of daily prediction and technology improvements.

According to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), 95% of Scottish bathing waters achieved a rating of “mandatory” water quality or better, with just 1.7% of samples collected found to be below European standards.

It also found nearly half of Scotland’s 83 bathing waters met stricter European environmental standards for water quality under the Water Environment and Water Services Act 2003. This is despite heavy rainfall in some areas during July and August, which often reduces the quality of bathing water as agricultural run-off and overflows from drains enter the supply.

SEPA said it has been working with its partner organisations such as Natural Scotland and Floodline, to improve water quality standards by expanding its daily prediction and beach signage system.

It has also launched a trial smart phone app in a bid to give the public more accurate information about water quality. SEPA said its app provided the public with accurate water quality predictions on more than 99% of days, while 85% of its predictions of poor samples at locations with bathing water signs were correct.

As a result of these improvements, the report found just four bathing waters failed during the summer season, with Lossiemouth East, Sandyhills, Irvine and Eyemouth falling below target.

SEPA environmental quality manager, Calum McPhail, called the failure of the bathing waters “disappointing”, adding that it is working to “iron out any technical glitches” in its mobile phone coverage, while also trialling a solar and wind powered sign in Ayrshire.

Mr McPhail said: We are confident that these problems will be resolved in time for the 2012 season which will begin, as usual, on June 1 next year. SEPA now operates a network of electronic beach information signs and media, which, after roads and rail, is one of the largest integrated message systems in the country.

Meanwhile, environment minister, Stewart Stevenson, emphasised that good water quality is essential for Scottish tourism and said the government is working with SEPA to make further improvements.

He said: “Scottish government will continue to work closely with SEPA and other partners to protect and improve our bathing waters. Particularly on the issue of diffuse pollution which can impact on the quality of our waters.”

From next season, SEPA is set to publish all water quality information, as required by the revised Bathing Water Directive, on signage at all beach locations.

Results for individual beaches can be found on SEPA’s website at

Carys Matthews

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