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.


Environment Agency hosts bathing water seminars for beach controllers

The Environment Agency will host bathing water seminars for beach controllers across the South West this week. The two seminars held jointly with DeFRA are designed to increase awareness of the European wide revised Bathing Water Directive among Beach controllers and clarify their understanding of the new directive requirements and timetable. The revised Bathing Water Directive, introduced in 2006, significantly changes the way bathing waters are managed. Bathing water quality standards are getting tighter. The Directive introduces a new classification scheme:

– Excellent – which is approximately twice as stringent as the current guideline standard
– Good – similar to the current guideline standard
– Sufficient – tighter than the current mandatory standard
– Poor – normally non-compliant waters

The Agency will sample on a four year rolling programme and report against these new classifications for the first time in 2015. All bathing waters need to achieve a classification of at least ‘sufficient’. The second important strand of the revised Directive is a greater emphasis on beach controllers providing public information at the beach. If a site is classified as poor in 2015 measures must be taken and advice against bathing posted at the bathing water by the beach controller.
Significantly, if a site is classified as poor for five consecutive seasons permanent advice against bathing must be issued and posted at the beach by the beach controller. Some sites in the South West that meet the current standards are at risk of not meeting the new standards in 2015. Read more on the Environment Agency website…

Majority of England’s bathing waters meet strict quality standards

A huge majority of England’s bathing waters continue to meet rigorous quality standards, new figures from Defra reveal. Nearly 80 per cent of England’s bathing waters met the tightest guideline standard with close to 98 per cent meeting the European Commission’s minimum water quality threshold in 2011.

Read more on the Defra website…