Press release

England’s bathing waters see record improvement

New figures show almost 99 per cent of England’s bathing waters meet strict quality standards.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Water quality around England’s coasts has dramatically improved since last year, new figures from Defra have revealed today.

Nearly all of England’s bathing waters have met strict quality standards, with almost 99 per cent of England’s bathing waters meeting the minimum European water quality standard, and over 82 per cent, the highest ever number of bathing waters meeting the tighter guideline standard.

Environment Minister, Dan Rogerson said:

England’s bathing waters have seen record improvements, meeting the highest standard this year and we need to make sure they continue to remain of good quality.

Having quality bathing water and beaches is not only good for the environment but also boosts tourism and creates a stronger local economy.

From 2015 the water quality at Britain’s beaches will be measured against stricter levels. The revised EU Bathing Water Directive sets much higher water quality standards which are approximately twice as stringent as the current standards.

Dan Rogerson added:

Meeting the tough new water quality targets will be a huge challenge. Everyone from local government to industry and local communities will have a part to play to ensure we continue to meet the new standards and have beaches that people can enjoy.

Only five bathing water sites failed to meet the required standards. This is due to some areas remaining vulnerable to the effects of very heavy rainfall as pollution from human and animal sources is washed from cities and rural areas into our rivers and streams.

Defra and the Environment Agency are working with stakeholders to address the problems that can arise from heavy rainfall. The department is also discussing with water companies further investment for the 2015 to 2020 period to ensure that bathing water quality continues to improve.

Lord Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency, said:

The improvement in the quality of UK bathing waters this year is really good news, but with much stricter standards coming into force in 2015, we cannot afford to be complacent. The Environment Agency is working hard with local authorities, businesses and water companies to ensure that bathing waters meet the new standards, and the seaside tourist economy in England continues to thrive.

Bathing water results for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are published by the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Department of Environment Northern Ireland respectively.

Further information

Published 6 November 2013