Mixed weather but positive results for Scotland’s bathing waters

Posted: Wednesday 27th October 2010

After a summer which started well with both May and June seeing a lot of dry and warm weather, most of July turned out to be a wet month across the whole country and indeed some areas also experienced further episodes of abnormal rainfall during August.

Despite torrential rain at times, 95% of Scottish bathing waters finished the 2010 summer season having achieved at least mandatory bathing water quality or better, and overall only 1.4% of tested samples were below European standards.

Results released today by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) also show that over half of Scotland’s 82 official bathing waters (52.4%, 43 in total), met the more stringent guideline standard for water quality. Results for individual beaches can be found on SEPA’s website at www.sepa.org.uk/water/bathing_waters/scottish_bathing_water_monitor.aspx.

Four bathing waters failed for the season; Heads of Ayr, Ayr (South beach), Irvine and Elie (Harbour) and Earlsferry. Although this is disappointing, especially for Elie (Harbour) and Earlsferry which has failed for the first time, there was one less failing bathing water than last year with two more beaches monitored across Scotland than previously.

Good news was that Ettrick Bay, which is considered to be affected at times by agricultural derived pollution, has achieved mandatory status after failing for the last three years due to reduced intensity of short term pollution events this year.

It was also another successful summer for the daily predictive signage system which SEPA operates at 11 of the bathing waters, with 98.6% of forecasts accurately predicting the correct (87.5%) or precautionary water quality conditions at any time. SEPA intends to build on this success and are extending predictive signage to an additional 12 bathing waters for next year.

Calum McPhail, Environmental Quality Manager for SEPA, said:

“The weather this season was very mixed with a long spell of dry weather followed by very heavy rain. This resulted in 24 abnormal weather waivers being applied on six dates, an increase on last year.

“Rain washing over land can pick up contaminants and potential pathogens that flush into watercourses and, ultimately, risk affecting our bathing water areas. However, not all the failures were caused by land based run-off. Heavy rain can also cause combined sewer overflows to spill, and while these are permitted under licences, and have strict conditions attached to them, a number of spills can contribute to lower water quality. SEPA officers responded swiftly to investigate the reasons behind all failures, quite often identifying the source and working with the appropriate organisations to remedy the situation.

“SEPA has been particularly busy this summer implementing the new general binding rules for reducing the impacts of diffuse pollution and has been undertaking a planned programme of farm visits, awareness raising across the rural land sectors and carrying out detailed inspection of watercourses in priority catchments.

“SEPA will continue to enforce regulations whenever necessary, but we recognise that we can only achieve the required bathing water quality for Scotland by working with all our partners as we move towards tighter water quality standards which will require close working arrangements in the near future.“
Minister for the Environment Roseanna Cunningham said:

“The majority of Scotland’s bathing waters were shown to be of high quality this year and this is important for communities and local economies.
“Heavy rain contributed to four bathing waters not meeting the required standards and that is disappointing but the Scottish Government will continue to work closely with SEPA and other partners on issues like rural diffuse pollution to protect and improve our bathing waters.“

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July 2020

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