Statistics from Defra revealed that 97.1% of bathing waters in England passed water quality standards, despite ongoing negative press about combined sewer overflows.
UK must not rest on laurels
Statistics from the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed that 97.1 per cent of bathing waters in England passed water quality standards, despite ongoing negative press about combined sewer overflows into seas.
This followed testing at over 400 designated sites carried out by the Environment Agency (EA).
The results show that for 2022, 72.1 per cent of beaches and inland waters met the ‘Excellent’ standard, the highest since new standards were introduced in 2015.
There is more to be done to improve our bathing waters and we must not rest on our laurels.
92.8 per cent of beaches and inland waters gained an ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ rating, while four per cent achieved the minimum ‘Sufficient’ rating. This compares with 99 per cent passing the required standards in 2021.
UK water minister Rebecca Pow welcomed the news but said that “there is more to be done to improve our bathing waters and we must not rest on our laurels".
Bathing waters are monitored for sources of pollution known to be a risk to bathers’ health, with up to 20 samples taken from each site during the bathing season.
Each sample is tested for bacteria, specifically E Coli and intestinal enterococci.
The Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan
Despite the positive stats, bad press concerning water companies discharging sewage into the environment outside of heavy rainfall continues to gain traction and criticism from environmental campaigner groups such as Surfers Against Sewage.
As a result, the UK government and the EA said more needs to be done by water companies and that it is taking robust action to support businesses, farmers and councils to help clean up Britons waters.
These robust actions include its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, where water companies must improve all storm overflows discharging into or near every designated bathing water by 2035; and improve 75 per cent of overflows discharging to high-priority nature sites by 2035.
The plan includes a £56 billion investment programme, which Rt Hon George Eustice MP secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, said is needed to "sort the problem out”.
The potential for increased monitoring
Since 2015 the EA has required water companies to install Event Duration Monitors at bathing water sites.
These devices capture data on the frequency and duration of storm overflow discharges, with all the data published online so the public can see the quality of their local bathing waters.
Public confidence in our bathing waters is key to the tourism industry as well as people’s health and wellbeing.
According to Defra, more than 12,000 of England’s 15,000 storm overflows now have these monitors, and the remaining 3,000 will have them by end of 2023.
“Public confidence in our bathing waters is key to the tourism industry as well as people’s health and wellbeing," said Alan Lovell, chair of the Environment Agency.
“We know that improvements can take time and investment from the water industry, farmers and local communities, but where the investment is made, standards can improve," he went on to say.