Water testing gets underway to prevent beaches failing tough new standards
16 May 2013 02:42 PM
More action needed to help protect England’s seaside economy.
Testing got underway at England’s bathing waters yesterday to improve water quality and protect England’s £3.6 bn seaside tourist economy. As the official 2013 bathing season begins, the Environment Agency is asking local authorities, homeowners and farmers to do more to improve bathing waters across the country.
Last year’s results showed that 93 per cent of England’s bathing waters met the current European water quality standards. But Environment Agency analysis suggests that ten per cent (around 55) of England’s beaches could be at risk of failing new, tighter standards that come into force in 2015.
Environment Agency water quality sampling teams will be out taking a total of 8,400 samples at over 400 bathing sites between now and September.
Twice as strict
By 2015, water quality standards are going to be twice as strict. For those beaches classed as ‘poor’, beach controllers will be required to display a sign advising visitors not to swim there.
Environment Agency Head of Bathing Waters, Christine Tuckett, said: 'The good news is that the vast majority of our beaches pass the current standards and they have seen a huge improvement over the past 20 years. But more needs to be done. Local authorities, water companies, farmers and businesses all have important parts to play in protecting and improving bathing water quality.
'A range of simple measures - from banning dogs from some beaches to making sure that household drains are connected properly - can all add up to a significant improvement in water quality, and help to safeguard the economic benefit that a clean, safe bathing water can bring.'
Throughout the summer, Environment Agency water quality sampling teams will be making the results of water quality tests available online to help people make more informed decisions about where to bathe.
The Environment Agency has also created a website application (known as a widget) to help other organisations, such as local authorities, tourist boards, tourist attractions and individuals display the latest bathing water data. The widget can be embedded into any website, allowing any organisation to display the latest data from one or more bathing waters in their area. The most recent water quality results can be found on the Environment Agency bathing water data explorer throughout the season.
Case study: Torbay Urban Diffuse Pollution Project
The popular resort of Torbay, in Devon, has 15 designated bathing waters, with seven urban streams draining onto beaches.
A number of the bathing waters around Torbay were predicted to be Poor under the revised Bathing Waters Directive.
In 2010, the Torbay Urban Diffuse Pollution Project was set up, a partnership between the Environment Agency, Torbay Council and South West Water. Its aims were to improve stream and bathing water quality, tackle sources of pollution and work with businesses to minimise their impact on water quality.
Wrongly connected household drains and domestic appliances were identified as being the main cause of pollution in Torbay. The Environment Agency worked with South West Water and sent educational leaflets to their customers with water bills, held community events and training sessions, and training was delivered to tradesmen and developers to stop new misconnections.
Misconnections were fixed from toilets and sinks at a medical practice, a local supermarket, commercial units on an industrial estate, a local factory, a large Torquay hotel and a church hall.
In total over 130 wrong connections were resolved, 7,500 cubic metres of polluted water were prevented from flowing onto Torbay’s beaches and into the sea, and as a result all of Torbay’s beaches now meet the sufficient standard or better.