Scotland

Water quality on Scottish beaches declines

Children at a beach
Image caption The society said overflow pipes were partly to blame for poor bathing water

The quality of bathing water at Scotland's beaches has declined, the Good Beach Guide has found.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) recommended 39 Scottish bathing beaches for excellent water quality - two less than last year.

The tests were conducted from June to September 2009, which was particularly wet.

Fewer beaches met MCS standards because heavy summer rains had carried raw sewage out through overflow pipes.

Data from the Met Office found that the summers between 2007 to 2009 were the wettest period since 1914 for the UK as a whole.

Stricter standards

The latest survey found that bathing water quality in Scotland has been declining since a peak in 2004, when MCS recommended 56 beaches - almost half of all sites tested.

The society is concerned that the current situation in Scotland may further deteriorate when new stricter bathing water standards are introduced in 2015.

Under this new regime, 28 of the 105 Scottish beaches tested will fail the new minimum water quality standard if nothing is done to improve them.

Thomas Bell, MCS coastal pollution officer, said: "Our campaign work is focused now on the degree to which combined sewer overflows are to blame for bathing water pollution and what can be done about it.

"Scotland has a large network of these pipes on the coast which are designed to carry sewage out of flooded sewer systems and deposit it in rivers or the sea.

"MCS knows of at least 135 Scottish coastal sites with one or more of these pipes.

"There are many places where they don't cause a problem but 63% of tested beaches aren't recommended by MCS because of pollution, a percentage which is set to go higher with tougher standards from 2015."

Some of the beaches recommended by the Good Beach Guide were:

Calum Duncan, MCS Scottish conservation manager added: "We're recommending 39 beaches for excellent water quality this year, which is good, but poor quality bathing water carries health risks.

"MCS advises people to use the Good Beach Guide and do three things; pick bathing beaches with a good water quality record, stay out of the sea at any beach for at least 48 hours after heavy storms and report pollution problems to us via the Good Beach Guide website."

Results were not available for six beaches in the west Highlands, all of which were MCS recommended in last year's guide.

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