First English bathing water quality figures under new rules get boost from weather

England’s first set of bathing water quality results under the EU’s New Bathing Water directive, released this week by Defra, show 98.5% of waters attaining at least the minimum standard including 69.5% scored as excellent.

While the results indicate a considerable improvement over 2015 (see table) one of the chief reasons could be favourable weather during the rolling, four-year testing period said Defra.

“The 2015 results included the 2012 bathing season, which was notably wet with subsequently poorer quality.” Debra said improvements also stemmed from: “improvements being made in the infrastructure at, or near, a number of bathing waters over recent years.”

Quality measurements under the new directive are significantly different to those they replace which had been in place since 1976. Bathing water quality is now determined on levels of two bacteria, Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci, and the quality classification for each year is based on measurements taken during the preceding four bathing seasons which run June to September. And classification under the previous system based on one-year’s figures.

This means comparisons between current and previous measurements are of limited value for results from before 2015. While the standards are difficult to compare, Defra estimates that the new standards are twice as stringent as the previous ones.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued its estimations for its 2016-17 bathing water quality earlier in the year.

English bathing water quality 2016 (2015)

Classification Percentage Numbers of bathing waters

Excellent 69. (60.4) 287 (264)

Good 23.7 (26.7) 98 (111)

Sufficient 5.3 (7) 22 (29)

Poor 1.5 (2.9) 6 (12)

Total 416 (413)

Scottish bathing quality projections 2016-17 (2015-16)

Excellent 26 (31%)

Good 36 (43%)

Sufficient 10 (12%)

Poor 12 (14%) Total 84