The Environment Agency has started its summer season of water sampling at 191 bathing waters off the coasts of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset.
Every year between May 1 and the end of September 30 samples are taken from each of the region’s European Commission (EC) designated bathing waters and checked for water quality.
The samples are analysed at the Environment Agency’s laboratory at Starcross, near Exeter, Devon and measured against strict EC mandatory and even tighter guideline standards. They are tested for various types of sewage-related bacteria that might indicate a risk to bathers’ health.
The Environment Agency sends the results to the relevant local authorities. It also investigates poor water quality to pinpoint and resolve problems.
Compliance with the mandatory standards has been consistently high in the south west in recent years reaching 100 per cent in 2006. However, the last few wet summers have caused water quality to dip as heavy rain causes pollution from the land to run off into bathing waters.
‘The South West has 1,000 kilometres of coastline and 191 designated bathing waters. The coastline and bathing waters are vital to the region’s economy, particularly in terms of their contribution to the tourism and leisure industry, so it is important to know the waters are of a high quality,’ said Richard Cresswell, Regional Director of the Environment Agency.
‘We will continue to work with potential polluters so that together we can ensure our good quality waters are maintained and we can provide cleaner sees for everyone. This is going to be even more important as new and stricter bathing water legislation comes into force in five years time.’
Swimmers, surfers and other beach users can check the quality of bathing waters on the Environment Agency’s website on the Your Environment pages.