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
  • Comment number 281.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    "Question is, would you drink it directly?"

    @259 ST75
    "No, its salt water!"

    I was swimming in the sea off a beach in Perrier in the south of France. I drank it, a bit fizzy, but fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    isn't it funny as there's a general election brewing everything in the garden's rosy, jobs, inflation lower, growth up and now this. just a thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    272. FragrantToff
    It wasn't domestication that caused them to become flatulent, they were flatulent before that.

    Buffalo, wildebeest, gazelles were on this earth in massive amounts before that and they all produce huge amounts of gas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    I am amazed that the MCS spokesperson thinks that wet summers causes pollution to be washed down from towns and cities. Wet weather causes problems on beaches that are backed by agricultural land as the rain washes coliform bacteria from farm animals into watercourses and then to the sea. Only when there is severe flooding do the municipal sewage system get overloaded causing contamination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    Many people are too young to remember what our beaches were like before EU legislation forced us to clean up. They were foul with faeces and other dreadful things floating among bathers at major resorts. I know personally because I worked on the clean up. Of course UKIP don't want this sort of interference on environmental issues by the EU . Many of us were glad to have it especially families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    A true sign of clean water is when mermaids return....have'nt seen one recently...

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    266.This is a colleague announcement
    "'We" (our Government, you mean) didn't have to BEFORE we joined the EU, and boy, they didn't. They COULD have, but DIDN'T, because their industrialist lobbyists didn't want it."

    We joined the EU more than 40 years ago. A lot would have changed in that time anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    29 Denaris
    "Try going to the Caribbean where I'm from. White sand, warm, clear waters, glorious sunshine and swaying palms. Until you have been there you don't know what a beach is."

    Thousands of UK people have, a good budget holiday. You big wimp! Sea temperature don't define a beach but a shoreline composing of loose material like sand or pebbles.
    I have swam summer British waters no problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.


    "You do know that Cows for example also cause pollution?"

    You do know that 'cows' were domesticated and interbred over 1000's of years by humans for the soul purpose of feeding/clothing/warming humans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    241. Taffyman
    "WOW, without the EU we couldn't have done this? Really? Are we so complacent..that we could not have brought in some regulations?"


    Who on Earth are the "we", about whom people keep banging on?

    Since when did our politicians do anything other than what their donors wanted?

    Big industry doesn't LIKE having to pay, to dispose of its waste.

    Before the EU it got its way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    257. Enjoy Being Cooked
    You must have travelled to other planets to indicate humans are the only ones who destroy their host planet - what are these planets like?
    You do know that Cows for example also cause pollution?
    There are lots of things that cause climate change, it is a natural phenomena. Do you mean what has increased the rate of climate change?

    Enjoy being cooked - you are the problem

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Another type of water . . . did you know public swimming baths have the top 5mm of the water comprising of human waste material?

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    Yeah - you can walk on the water at Weymouth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    Can we believe any of these reports? Our politicians lie, scientists say what they want the politicians to hear, and the media have an agenda. Someone somewhere in an office sends out a message regarding the state of our beaches and that is the end of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    264. ST75
    "Just because we wouldn't have to abide by EU rule doesn't mean we can't keep our beaches clean"


    'We" (our Government, you mean) didn't have to BEFORE we joined the EU, and boy, they didn't. They COULD have, but DIDN'T, because their industrialist lobbyists didn't want it.

    Too young to remember, or Alzheimer's?

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    263.Alan Marr

    Yep right atthe top of there plans it says:

    No1 - Make beaches dirty.

    Just because we wouldn't have to abide by EU rule doesn't mean we can't keep our beaches clean,.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    If UKIP have their way and we no longer have to abide by EU regs our beaches will return to the filthy state they used to be in!

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    258 - Donkzilla "hippy days"

    Yeah, cool times for sure. A decade with the best fashion, choice of teenage social structures, by far the best & different genres of music, freedom, mutual respect, anti war ethic, rock festivals, home brew & with guitar & sleeping bag one could hitch hike anywhere, gig in the pubs, work at fairgrounds,etc, before settling down to lifes responsibility. High times!


Page 2 of 16


More UK stories


Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • KnucklesGood or bad?

    For many it can be very satisfying to 'crack' the bones in your hand, but is it bad for you?


  • BatteriesClick Watch

    More power to your phone - the lithium-ion batteries that could last twice as long

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.