The UK's record bathing water quality results mean very little to today's water

user, when their compliance is based on EU legislation that is 26 years out

of date and when sampling results are not used in conjunction with practical

beach management actions, believe clean water advocates Surfers Against Sewage.

The record high of 98.5% for England's designated bathing waters which meet

the EU's very basic water quality standard, holds very little water when you

consider the sampling techniques employed fail to use the best 'public health

risk' indicators, that bathing waters are subject to seasonal testing only and

when only areas where people swim are recognised as needing to be tested. These

factors are further compounded by the lack of in situ management actions at

bathing waters, in terms of warning signs when quality deteriorates or risk

to health increases.

What the results do show is that targeted investment by the Water Industry

is paying off and that focus now needs to turn towards other factors influencing

bathing water quality such as agricultural pollution.

A new proposal for a revised EU Bathing Water Directive has recently been published

by the European Commission. To date it has not gone far enough to protect the

water user of today, with the Commission once again basing the Directive around

the protection of the bather rather than recognising the significant number

of recreational water users practising their sport in waters in Europe. SAS

also have reservations concerning the proposed microbiological standards set

for bathing waters, questioning why there need to be two different quality standards

and whether the protection afforded by proposed standards is acceptable to the

water user.

The revised Directive will also need to provide better real time information

for the public and this is one area the Commission seems to have embraced in

part. Providing the public with information about water quality is just one

tool in a suite of management measures that should include information on the

movement of effluent plumes, location of sewage outfalls and levels of sewage


Vicky Garner, Campaign Director at Surfers Against Sewage says, "We can't

read too much into these results. The current Bathing Water Directive is great

for the statistician who wants a convenient set of figures to determine compliance

by, but it fails the water user on three counts. Firstly no practical management

action is taken at a bathing water at the time the water fails, secondly the

standards are not representative of risk to health and thirdly it ignores the

millions of recreational water users who take to the water year round throughout


For further information please contact Vicky or Richard on Tel: 01872 553001/07817