England’s Bathing Waters Were the Cleanest on Record…Is This a Predictor for the Future?

In November of last year, it was recorded that the water quality of England’s beaches was the cleanest ever recorded. Due to a combination of a dry summer, stricter EU regulations, and more spending on solutions by water companies, less pollution entered the sea from drains, sewers, and farms. 413 beaches are monitored by the Environment Agency (EA) at most, 20 times a year. Of those 413 sites, 98.5% passed the minimum EU limit for pollution. Within the 98.5%, 69% were rated as “excellent" and 27% were rated “good.” Five beaches that commonly failed in the past met the minimum standard while six beaches failed.

Following these results, environmentalist groups were pleased with the news but cautioned that the standards that resulted in the improvements need to be upheld moving forward. This is especially important with the effects of Brexit possibly affecting water quality standards. A sentiment reflected in a Friends of the Earth campaigner’s comment: “the continuing improvement of England’s beaches and bathing water are a terrific success story. Ministers must now ensure that…the tough EU rules that have driven these vast improvements are kept no matter what Brexit looks like.”

Water pollution at England beaches has greatly improved since 1976, when EU bathing water regulations were put in place. In 1991, more than one in four beaches were considered too polluted to be in. Around the same time in the ‘90s, the EU used substantial fines and beach closures to push water companies to reduce pollution from sewage and animals—a move that cost the companies billions of pounds. In 2006, standards were raised again and since then, hundreds of millions more pounds have been spent treating water. 

All of the investment and regulation is thought to have lead to a higher number of vacationers, with almost 14 million flocking to English beaches in 2015, 7% more than in 2014 as reported by the EA. More vacationers means more money incorporated into local economies which benefits a wide array of people.

These results spanned the past four years until 2016. Comparatively, “the 2015 results included the 2012 bathing season which was notably wet with substantially poorer quality.“ If a dry season is an essential component to cleaner water, the results from last year beg the question, what will this year’s results be? It seems that this last July has been the wettest in five years in the UK, with August not looking any sunnier. Even if the weather factor is uncontrollable, hopefully strong regulation and continued investment in solutions can maintain the standard it has reached so far in order to reap more widespread benefits for all.


“WET WET WET UK weather to bring yet MORE rain in August and 50mph gales to Britain’s washout summer as forecasters reveal July was wettest in five years” https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4148221/uk-weather-forecast-latest-august-summer-wettest-july-five-years/