Water quality at 70% of Britain's beaches 'excellent'


Tim Muffett speaks to Richard Harrington from the Marine Conservation Society at Stokes Bay in Hampshire

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A record 73% of beaches in the UK have "excellent" water quality because of last summer's dry weather, according to the Marine Conservation Society.

Researchers said the lack of rain caused less pollution to filter down from towns and cities to the coasts.

In its annual Good Beach Guide, published on Tuesday, MCS says 538 of 734 UK beaches tested between May and September 2013 reached the top standard for water quality.

It is 135 more than the previous year.

The MCS labels beaches against four standards of water quality - recommended, guideline, mandatory and fail.

There were also fewer failures in 2013, with 14 beaches tested last summer failing to reach minimum water quality standards compared with 42 the year before.

In the North East and South East of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all monitored beaches reached the minimum bathing water requirements, the latest information shows.

Fistral in Cornwall Water samples from beaches, including Fistral beach in Cornwall, were taken between May and September last year
Robin Hoods Bay in North Yorkshire Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire was among 538 beaches recommended for its water quality
Portreath beach in Cornwall Portreath beach is one of more than 70 beaches in Cornwall that have been judged as excellent

Scientists took samples of bathing water from Britain's beaches every week last summer - checking for bacteria such as e-coli.

MCS coastal pollution officer Rachel Wyatt said she hoped the latest figures would be a boost to UK tourism, after several wet summers led to a recent drop in bathing water quality.

"It's great news that we are able to recommend more beaches than ever for excellent water quality and it shows just how good British beaches can be," she said.

"The main challenge now is maintaining these standards, whatever the weather.

Who has the most recommended beaches?

  • North-east England 81%
  • South-east England 84%
  • South-west England 88%
  • Wales 71%
  • Northern Ireland 65%

"Most people don't realise what a big impact the weather can have on bathing water quality, but this has really been highlighted in the last few years.

"2008, 2009 and 2012 were, according to the Met Office, amongst the wettest summers on record since 1910, and fewer UK bathing waters met minimum and higher water quality standards because of increased pollution running off rural and urban areas and overloaded sewers."

South-west England has the highest record of recommended beaches with 88% hitting the top standard, while the Isle of Mann had the lowest with 26% - although this was a 16% rise on the previous year.

The Channel Islands was the only area to see a drop in the number of beaches considered excellent for its water quality, from 19 to 18.

Dr Sue Kinsey, pollution policy officer at the MCS, said heavy rainfall over the winter months should not affect beaches this summer, as bacteria will break down within 24 to 48 hours.

Real-time monitoring by the Environment Agency will allow swimmers to check the water quality on a given day, Dr Kinsey told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

As well as the dry summer, she said "massive investment" by water companies to improve their sewage systems was a factor in the improvement.

In two years' time, beaches which do not meet the "sufficient" standard will have to display signs warning against bathing in the sea under new EU regulation.

This will be around twice as stringent as the current minimum standard and means that some beaches will need to do more to retain their recommendation, the MCS says.

It says it will continue to put pressure on water companies, environmental regulators and local councils to tackle the sources of bathing water pollution.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    250. Talbyr
    "As for sewage, where would you recommend we put it then, if not in the sea?"


    We TREAT it. Never heard of that? Basically (sorry) we strain out the solids, and treat the liquid with UV to destroy pathogens. That can then go into rivers/sea. The other goes to composting and agriculture if chemically acceptable.

    It's all there on the web for you to read if you're really bothered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    The beaches MAY be clean, but its like finding a good head of hair on a patient on his deathbed...IMO ..its all too late and we must hang our heads in shame to the absolute horror our kids and grandkids are going to face from mother nature, all because we wanted fossil fuels. Solar power could solve every energy problem the world over, but "IT COSTS TOO MUCH" and the energy guys would lose out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    140. A Matter of Time
    "There are no beaches in the UK.
    Not what I would consider a beach anyway."

    You either live in the "big city" or you don't have the faintest interest in the world around you. Bit sad, either way

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    On our local beaches where there is a summer ban on dogs the ban is flouted by many, and the policing by the local council is pathetic

    Our dogs are lucky, I have 58 acres of land, its humans that are banned on my land, allowing my dogs to run free, signs all around stating dogs running free also, as a warning to anyone who dares enter

    I prefer animals to the majority of humans

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    Still way to much litter and other rubbish washing ashore, more should be done in cleaning up the ocean.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    6 Hours ago
    Great news for surfers and swimmers alike. Now all we have to do is get dogs poo off the walks and access ways to the beaches and we may be able to enjoy them again

    Yes, we should be allowed to deposit it into the sea like we do with human excrement and start the problem all over again

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    On our local beaches where there is a summer ban on dogs the ban is flouted by many, and the policing by the local council is pathetic. Of more concern is the proliferation of temporary/opportunistic caravan sites. No-one seems to factor in the effect of an increase of 1,500 people on a tiny village sewage station designed to deal with 60 residents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    It wasn't that dry,if I remember we had a fair bit of rain in the first half of the year.It got better in July and August.In total we had about 8 dry, warm,sunny weeks.Hardly makes for a good summer.A good summer starts in May and goes through to August/September.Compared to the year before it was a better summer.So a drought is when you have 8 weeks of dry weather?Need to look up the word drought

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    151 "Some things the EU dictates are positive"

    Does that mean that when you're no longer members you'll just go back to dumping sewage wherever?

  • Comment number 292.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    A record 73% of beaches in the UK have "excellent" water quality


    Fact is, its 73% of TESTED beaches, if one includes non tested beaches then the % drops down to approx 60% of beaches in UK, which looks no where as good as 73%.

    As is normal

    LIES DAMNED LIES & STATISTICS used & abused again to pervert the true reality & show it in more positive light

  • Comment number 290.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Well done everybody concerned and thank you.

  • Comment number 288.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    The water may be clean down here in Cornwall but the rubbish on the beaches is still a major problem. Huge efforts by volunteeers to clean the popular one, fair play to them. However we need a nationwide policy on beach cleaning and beach/sea dumping of waste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    EU is great except the only British referendum was for a common market.

    The rest of the EU was undemocratically imposed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Continued from comment 284...

    I'm putting together my own political manifesto. The main focus will be reorganising society from one where people are afraid of each other to a society where people are valued upon merit and not split by wealth.

    This would reduce the need to delude ourselves by claiming everything is improving when things most certainly are at worst degrading, at best: stagnating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    Let's be fair, at least they are consistent.

    School exams get easier, kids taught the exam, not the subject. "Education is getting better."

    Benefit claimants sanctioned for every little tiny insignificant mistake. Forced off benefits into poverty.
    "Employment statistics are improving."

    Beach water tested before the torrential rain and floods.
    "Water quality is improving."

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    Until I can drink it, I won't believe it...

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Do you mean people actually swim in the cold British sea?


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