UK bathing waters on the brink of being cleanest ever

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 26 May 2011

UK bathing waters on the brink of being cleanest ever MCS demands communities, environmental regulators and water companies to embrace stricter standards In the latest edition of the Good Beach Guide, 461 UK beaches are recommended as having excellent bathing water quality - the third highest number in the Guide’s 24 year history.

UK bathing waters on the brink of being cleanest ever MCS demands communities, environmental regulators and water companies to embrace stricter standards In the latest edition of the Good Beach Guide, 461 UK beaches are recommended as having excellent bathing water quality - the third highest number in the Guide’s 24 year history. However, despite there being 42 more recommended beaches in 2011 than there were in 2010, 46 UK beaches have failed to meet even the basic standards set 35 years ago in European law. These present a potential health hazard for beachgoers, who may face unacceptable levels of bacteria and viruses in the sea water. MCS says this is a real cause for concern. “From 2015 Europe’s beaches will be classified using even stricter water quality standards due to the revision of the Bathing Water Directive,” says Rachel Wyatt, MCS Coastal Pollution Officer. “But instead of viewing these new standards with dread, our coastal communities and water companies should welcome them as an opportunity to attract more people to the UK’s wonderful and varied seaside resorts”. Rachel Wyatt says that campaigns for cleaner seas, such as the Good Beach Guide, have paid off, resulting in this revised Directive: “The next few years are critical as the quality of the UK’s bathing waters can play a vital role in the economic recovery of our traditional seaside resorts. Making sure their local beaches are ready to comply with the revised Bathing Water Directive is a huge opportunity for local authorities and Chambers of Commerce to attract increasing numbers of tourists to the UK’s coastline.” Monitoring for the new standards begins next year, and if a beach consistently fails to meet these legal limits between then and 2015, bathers could be faced with a sign advising them not to enter the water when they head to the beach. MCS says this could be hugely damaging for local economies and is demanding that the UK’s environmental regulators work much more closely with water companies and local authorities to investigate sources of pollution affecting bathing water quality and, where necessary, ensure improvements are made. Robert Keirle, MCS Pollution Programme Manager, says one issue MCS is particularly concerned about is the amount of dilute sewage flowing into coastal waters from Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), which are designed to act as emergency outlets for overloaded sewerage systems during periods of heavy rainfall, but which can discharge at other times as well. “There are 22,000 CSOs in the UK, and only around a quarter of these pipes are monitored to see how often they are putting untreated sewage into the sea. MCS wants all of these pipes mapped and monitored, and for the public to be told at the time when, and for how long, the sewage is flowing. Mapping costs relatively little yet it could make the difference between an enjoyable trip to the beach or one that ends up in A & E with ear, nose and throat infections or stomach upsets.” MCS is urging beachgoers to vote with their mouse and go online to use the Good Beach Guide to choose beaches with the best water quality for swimming. The charity says that only by demanding the cleanest beaches for swimming can we ensure that investments are made to improve our coastline and tackle sources of bathing water pollution. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) works in partnership with MCS. This summer the Good Beach Guide will carry new information about hazards to look out for at the beach, like strong currents or large waves, which beachgoers may encounter. The guide will also carry the RNLI’s top tips for staying safe and details of lifeguarded beaches.

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