Environment Agency says 96% of English bathing waters meet required quality standards

According to the Environment Agency’s latest results, 96% of bathing waters in England have met minimum standards, with 90% of bathing waters in England being rated as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

The results follow testing at over 400 sites regularly used by swimmers throughout the summer. These tests, carried out by the Environment Agency, monitor for sources of pollution known to be a risk to bathers’ health, specifically E coli and intestinal enterococci.

Whilst bathing water quality has improved over the past few decades, standards have fallen slightly in the last year, likely in part due to an unseasonably wet summer causing run-off.

Other complex factors which influence bathing water quality can include tides, and physical or environmental changes at a site, with every catchment affected differently.

Last year’s statistics showed that 97% met the minimum standard of ‘sufficient’, whilst 93% met the highest standards of ‘good’ and ‘excellent’.

Environment Agency Chair Alan Lovell said: 

“Many people enjoy time in or on lakes, rivers and coastal waters, and we know the value they bring in terms of social, health and wellbeing benefits.

“While overall bathing water quality has improved over the last decade due to targeted investment, robust regulation from the Environment Agency and work carried out by partners, these results show there is significant work still to do to ensure the quality of our bathing waters is increasing every year.

“The slight fall in standards this year show we must go further to drive improvements and that this takes time and investment. That’s why we are strengthening our regulation and working with the water sector, farmers, industry, and others to help them put the environment at the heart of their activities and improve our bathing waters for all.”

Water Minister Robbie Moore said: 

“Our bathing waters have improved significantly in recent years, and we are fully committed to seeing the quality of our coastal waters, rivers and lakes rise further for the benefit of the environment and everyone who uses them.

“Our Plan For Water is delivering more investment, stronger regulation and tougher enforcement to clean up our waterways and continue to improve our bathing waters.

“We have also set stringent targets for water companies to reduce sewage spills from storm overflows which frontloads action at designated bathing waters to make the biggest difference to these sites as quickly as possible.”

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