Water Industry News

99percent Of Bathing Sites In England Meet Water Quality Standards

More than 400 designated sites have been tested by the Environment Agency and the results are in: 99 per cent of bathing waters in England have now passed water quality standards.


Bathing water sites have been monitored by the agency since the 1990s, looking out for sources of pollution that could pose a public health risk. Up to 20 samples are taken from each site during the bathing season and tested for bacteria, specifically intestinal enterococci and E coli.


Since the 1990s, significant improvements in water quality have been made. In the early 90s, just 28 per cent of bathing water met the highest standards. Now, 99 per cent meet the minimum standard, with 70.7 per cent meeting the highest.


For the 2021 bathing season, the results revealed that 94.7 per cent of inland waters and beaches gained an Excellent or Good rating, while 4.3 per cent achieved the minimum Sufficient rating.


While this is certainly excellent progress, the Environment Agency does acknowledge that more must still be done to ensure that the country’s waterways are cleaner and healthier, so they can continue to be enjoyed.


Water companies need to do more, the agency believes, while it is also taking strong action to support businesses, farmers, regulators and councils to help keep the waters clean.


To this end, the agency has required water companies to install Event Duration Monitors at bathing sites since 2015.


Data is captured on the frequency and duration of storm overflow discharges, with the data published online so members of the public are able to see what is happening locally. Over 12,000 of 15,000 storm overflows in England now have these monitors in place and the remaining 3,000 will have them by the end of 2023.


Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said: “We cannot afford to be complacent. Public confidence in water quality has faltered in recent years with new evidence of pollution incidents getting much needed attention as a result of some excellent campaigning.”


“The polluter must pay. To restore trust, water companies, industry and farmers need to get the basics right or face legal action.”


Late last year, water firms around the country called on the government, agriculture and industry to create a new series of bathing rivers around England to help improve the health of the nation’s waterways.


A new report – 21st Century Rivers: Ten actions for change – detailed how important a collaborative approach will be across all sectors in order to achieve the necessary fundamental changes.


Currently, approximately one-quarter of the challenges facing England’s watercourses are down to water companies, with the most harm coming from agriculture and other such sectors, such as highways and local authorities.


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