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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    @29 "Lol, people call the pebbled shoreline and ice cold Atlantic water around the UK a 'beach'"

    You have clearly not been to the Isle of Iona, there are at least 4 utterly stunning sandy beaches with some of the best views in the world.

    Plenty of others in the Hebrides (Inner and Outer)

    Also Slapton Sands in South Devon (pebbles and cold water there, still stunning)

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Question is, would you drink it directly? I certainly wouldn't. As long as the sea is used as a dumping ground for effluent instead of filtering it through, it cannot be classified as "clean" by anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    15 "Anyone remember when governments were saying all this "water quality stuff" being "foisted on us by Europe" would destroy tourism?"

    Actually I don't remember that at all. Don't suppose you have an example do you? Doubt it, what you have written there is nonsense.

  • Comment number 118.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    re 15
    You are quite right but why should our water quality be the business of a load of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels?
    The fact that the EU sometimes produces good work does not negate the criticism that it is fundamentally remote and unaccountable.
    What should happen is that we vote in people who give us this sort of desireable legislation - and vote out those who do not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Lack of rain ?
    Where have you been for the last 6 months ?
    Probably learing to read;
    "beaches tested between May and September 2013"

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    15.laughingdevil -"...remember when Gov were saying all this "water quality stuff" being "foisted on us by Europe" would destroy tourism...Well the "the EU is always wrong" doom-mongers were wrong."

    Why? Because ONLY the EU can pass environmental laws? Are all Brits are filthy polluters that need their Euro cousins to keep them clean!?

    Mussolini got the trains running on time you know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    MCS says 538

    Thats wrong,

    the site shows 536 top standard

    32 Guidline

    150 Mandatory

    14 Fail

    417 not tested

    Thats a lot of beaches still not tested, less than 2 3rds are tested, so no information as to whether they are even safe to swim in or even paddle.

    The tests relate to summer 2013, so if one wants to be updated one needs to contact local authority information

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    76. Keight "Please, Procyon, don't tar all dog owners with the same brush"

    I'm not - just the stupid, selfish ones! Unfortunately there are a lot in this category.

    My favourite local beach is in an RSPB bird sanctuary. There are signs prohibiting dogs and even suggesting other nearby beaches where dog "walking" is allowed, but still ignorant dog owners treat it as a toilet for their animals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    11 Minutes ago

    How about radiation on the beaches around Sellafield?"

    Perfect! and not only do you get a sun tan but the glow in the dark feature is a bonus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    107. Counterjerk
    "British waters are naturally pleasant, without the EU's unwanted meddling"


    They're naturally pleasant. It's a pity about all the man-made sewage and industrial waste which used to be in them before the EU banned that. Can you remember the Trent, Thames, Mersey, and the sea at Blackpool, Southend etc. in the 1960s? Too young? Or amnesia?

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Whilst the water quality on our beaches may be improving the litter situation gets steadily worse and makes a day on the beach unpleasant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    3.Arthur Thistlewood
    2 Hours ago
    Why is Wales behind England in absolutely everything - health service, education, now even water quality!
    Oh dear another fool who thinks everything that comes out of Cameron and Hunt's mouths are then gospel truth.
    Wales has a better job creation rate than most of the UK outside the M25 and a beach in the world top 10,
    Perhaps you should visit

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Great news for our seaside towns many of which have been steadily improving over the last few years. Now we need to come down harder on those who leave litter about the place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    > Without the EU a walk along many of these beaches would be as pleasant as to the local tip! I remember the "tide line" being human waste, not seaweed!

    British waters are naturally pleasant, without the EU's unwanted meddling. You've just fallen for the BBC's pro-EU PROPAGANDA!

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

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

    So the coast dwellers benefit from this but the city & town dwellers don't then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    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.

    @91 Little_old_me

    Qualifications? Common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    97.Pete Powell - ".......If the beaches are cleaner due to the lack of rain last summer, then God help the research results this spring....."


    The VAST majority of pollutants entering our waters come from farming - the fertilizers are mostly applied in spring & if the rains don;t wash them out then the crops absorb then, leaving little to wash out until next spring....


  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    PR PR PR - Amazing how often a headline can be out of date.

    The beaches were tested between May and September last year.

    The main reason for the "good" result was the above was quite dry and kept pollution from running off the land.


    We have just had the wettest ever winter.

    What are the results now?

    There is still a great deal to do, to reduce pollution further.

    Don't get complacent!

  • Comment number 102.

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


Page 10 of 16


More UK stories


Features & Analysis

  • Dana Lone HillDana Lone Hill

    The Native American names that break Facebook rules

  • Painting from Rothschild collectionDark arts Watch

    The 50-year fight to recover paintings looted by the Nazis

  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back

  • Signposts showing the US and UK flagsAn ocean apart

    How British misunderstanding of the US is growing

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • StudentsBull market

    Employers are snapping up students with this desirable degree


  • 3D model of Christ the Redeemer statueClick Watch

    Using drones to 3D map the famous Brazilian landmark Christ the Redeemer

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.