Over eight in ten bathing waters reach highest European standard

Posted: Tuesday 30th November 2010

A record number of beaches and inland bathing waters in England and Wales reached the highest EC standards in bathing water quality this year, a report published recently by the Environment Agency reveals.

New figures released today show that in 2010 over eight in ten beaches (86.2%) met the EC “guideline” standard across England and Wales – compared to only three in ten bathing waters in 1990 (32%).

Today’s report coincides with Defra’s annual publication of English bathing water quality results based on sampling conducted by the Environment Agency. Across England and Wales, almost all (98%) of bathing waters met the Bathing Water Directive mandatory standards this year, compared to only three quarters in 1989. This was slightly lower (by 0.6%) than the 2009 results.

New, tougher standards come into force from 2015. Over 80% of beaches already meet the more stringent requirements. The Environment Agency is working hard with others including local authorities, farmers, land managers and water companies to further improve bathing water quality by tackling sources of pollution such as run-off from urban areas and agricultural land.

Over the last two decades, the Environment Agency has helped direct £8bn of water company investment to upgrade sewage systems and reduce pollution. The Environment Agency helped to secure a further £4bn investment by the water industry in environmental improvements, including at bathing waters , between 2010 and 2015. Some 90 projects will go forward to improve water quality at 37 coastal locations, while scientific investigation will help identify sources of pollution at a further 44 sites.

Throughout the 2010 bathing water season, the Environment Agency monitored 493 bathing waters around England and Wales and conducted a total of 29,700 tests on water samples. 483 bathing waters met the mandatory standard required by the Bathing Water Directive and 425 bathing waters met the EC guideline standard.

The Environment Agency’s Chief Executive, Dr. Paul Leinster, said:

“The number of bathing waters in England and Wales attaining the highest quality status has almost tripled over the last 20 years - over eight in ten sites now meet the EU "guideline" standard for water quality.”

“The Environment Agency is working hard with others to drive improvements and tackle all sources of pollution alongside beach users, local authorities, farmers, land managers and water companies.”

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