SEPA reports expected bathing water classifications under new European Directive

Posted: Wednesday 11th November 2015

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) expects that 80% of Scotland’s bathing waters will meet the new European water quality standards when confirmed classifications are issued by the EU in spring 2016.

The Agency expects that, of the 84 designated bathing waters in Scotland, 17 will be rated as ‘excellent’, 38 will be classed as ‘good’, and 12 will be rated as ‘sufficient.’ However, seventeen bathing waters are expected to be classed as ‘poor’ after this season, due to the much tighter water quality standards of the new Bathing Water Directive.

Increased understanding of health risks from recent EU and WHO studies have been a key driver for the introduction of a new Directive. The new classifications are calculated based on four years of monitoring data, and take the overall number of bacteria into account over this period, to give a more consistent picture of water quality condition when assigning the status of a bathing water area.

As well as tighter water quality standards, the Directive puts an emphasis on information provision for beach users and bathers. SEPA’s network of electronic signs at 23 key beach locations provide real-time water quality information and the Agency’s online bathing water profiles give site specific information for each of these locations.

Calum McPhail, from SEPA’s Environmental Quality Unit, said:

“This is a milestone year for Scotland’s bathing waters with the introduction of the new classifications and while it’s disappointing to see that 17 bathing waters are predicted to be classed as ‘poor’ we are pleased to see so many performing well under the new stricter standards.

“Scottish bathing waters have been increasing in number and improving in quality since our regulation and monitoring of EU bathing waters compliance began in 1988. All bathing waters originally designated in 1988, and almost all those designated more recently, met water quality standards in 2014 which is a vast improvement from the first year of monitoring.

“Our challenge now is to build upon this progress and bring all of Scottish bathing waters up to, at least, the ‘sufficient’ standard under the new Directive through further investment and infrastructure improvements along with managing pressures from rural and diffuse pollution.

"SEPA currently provides daily water quality predictions at 23 beaches throughout Scotland, as well as via SEPA’s website, smartphone app and Beachline number. We are currently planning to extend this daily signage network to a small number of additional locations so that even more people can make informed decisions about whether to use the bathing waters.

“We will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government and key partners to protect, manage and improve areas where water quality is at risk as we work towards bringing the bathing waters up to the new standards.”

Minister for Environment, Land Reform and Climate Change Dr Aileen McLeod said:

“This year sees the introduction of a new classification to measure the quality of our bathing waters. It is encouraging that weekly sampling results throughout the season indicate the majority of our bathing waters have achieved the required standard.

“However we know that some waters are still at risk during poor weather conditions, and the new regime shows that 17 bathing waters are classified as poor due to associated pollution from runoff. This is a stark reminder of our need to eradicate these pollution sources and we will continue to work in partnership with Scottish Water and land managers to ensure all our bathing water reach sufficient standard or better.”




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