Improving bathing waters on Wales’ beaches as weather changes

The changing weather forecast will provide a boost for visitors and beach-goers this Summer as water quality at some of Wales’ most popular beaches is likely to improve with more settled weather, according to Environment Agency Wales.
The record rainfall during June and early July not only caused flooding in parts of Wales, it also affected bathing water quality at some of the 100 designated bathing beaches sampled by the Agency.
At the midway point of the bathing water testing season (which runs from May to September) results had dipped reflecting the unsettled weather pattern of recent months. Agency sampling officers found that bacterial levels increased following the heavy rain partly as pollutants from fields and urban areas were washed into rivers. The heavy rainfall also caused storm sewage discharge systems to release diluted sewage into rivers in order to protect homes from flooding. Other sources of pollution that impact on water quality include badly maintained cesspits and septic tanks, and poor household plumbing. In some cases, foul water pipes are incorrectly connected to the surface water drainage systems which flow, untreated into rivers.

Improving water quality
However, as the rain eases and the sunnier weather continues bacterial levels will reduce due to less pollution and some will be killed off by Ultra Violet rays from the sun. Bathing water quality has improved dramatically in the last 20 years, much of it due to Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s £1bn of investment into waste water improvements. In addition to influencing this investment, the Agency has also been advising farmers about different practices in order to reduce diffuse pollution. However, more work needs to be done to meet tough new standards in the revised Bathing Water Directive coming into force in 2015 with some standards being twice as stringent as those in previous years.

Further investigation into sources of pollution
The Agency will continue to investigate the source of pollution affecting water quality in order to tackle those responsible.
It is working closely with Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and other sectors to secure continued improvement in future water quality and Chris Mills, Director, Environment Agency Wales, said:

“I am sure many of us welcomed the recent sunshine and made the most of it at some of the fantastic beaches in Wales. And the good weather will also mean better water quality for bathing. The record rainfall which fell in June and July has affected water quality and some beaches will have struggled to meet the standards expected. We have seen a dramatic improvement in bathing water in the last 20 years but remain determined to push on from this and make sure bathing waters are clean and healthy, not only to meet EU rules, but for the people and economy of Wales.”

People can find out information on bathing waters either on the Environment Agency website or:
Bathing Water Data Explorer website
Beach Finder app available for download on most smart phones. Go to the RNLI pages for more information.