The quality of Britain’s beach waters reaches an all time high

This year has seen the highest number of beaches in England and Wales – 467 out of the 481 designated beaches – reaching the mandatory standard set out by the Bathing Waters Directive, the highest since records began in 1988. In addition, 60% of designated waters have also met the stricter guideline standards in 2001, up by more than 15% from last year.


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The most notable improvements in the quality of bathing water occurred in the North West, with the eight beaches that were tested along the Blackpool Fylde coast, between St. Annes and Fleetwood, succeeding in passing the mandatory standard for the first time. The improvements found in the North East area are also worthy of note – all 55 of the region’s bathing waters achieved 100% pass rate of the mandatory standard. In the South West, 184 of the 189 bathing waters reached the mandatory standard, with 70% achieving the higher guideline standard.

“Better quality levels have been achieved through hard work and heavy investment by the water industry in improving sewage systems,” said Environment Agency Chief Executive Barbara Young. She also emphasised that the European Union Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive and the work by the Environment Agency has helped the situation enormously. However, the work is “not over”, she added. “We’re continuing to work with water companies to improve coastal sewage systems and to diffuse pollution problems.” Other work to be done includes targeting investments to achieve the tighter ‘guideline’ standards and researching long-term water-quality problems to ensure even higher standards of bathing water quality for the future.

As well as the successes with coastal water quality, the standard of inland bathing waters was also up this year, with all nine achieving the mandatory coliform standards, as opposed to only seven last year. Five inland bathing sites also achieved guideline standards.

Despite the hot weather in July, the tourist industry has suffered its toughest year ever due to the Foot and Mouth epidemic, so there is no doubt that these findings from the Environment Agency will be most welcomed by the industry and of interest to everyone, particularly those interested in the environment, says the Agency.

“This further improvement in the quality of our bathing waters is very good news,” said Environment Minister Michael Meacher. “These are record results showing our clear commitment to improving quality. The enhanced reputation of our beaches will give a much needed boost to our tourism industry and I hope will make a real contribution to the regeneration of our coastal resorts.”

“I am especially pleased at the 100% pass rate along the Blackpool Fylde Coast and can confirm that Commissioner Wallström proposes to withdraw the infraction action relating to these bathing waters,” Meacher added.

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