Sunday, February 25, 2024

Wild swimming could get better protection at more new sites

Two swimming spots at Rutland Water are amongst four being considered for designation as bathing water sites and benefit from regular water quality monitoring from this spring.

Sykes Lane Bathing Beach and Whitwell Creek at Rutland Water sit alongside Firestone Bay in Plymouth and a section of the River Deben at Waldringfield, Suffolk, all of which have progressed to a public consultation. If designated, it will take the total number of sites to 424, the highest number ever.

Once designated, the Environment Agency regularly monitors water quality at bathing waters and assesses whether action is needed to cut pollution levels, working with local communities, farmers and water companies to improve water quality at these locations.

Since 2010, the proportion of bathing waters assessed as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ has increased from 76% to 93%. Meanwhile, 72% are considered ‘excellent’ – up from just 51% in 2010. This is the highest level ever, despite the classification standards for bathing waters having been made more stringent in 2015.

Water Minister Rebecca Pow said: “England’s bathing water sites are an important part of how we safeguard our precious coastal waters, rivers and lakes, as well as protecting the health of bathers.

The actions we have taken mean that people across the country will be able to swim at more sites and in better quality water, but we know there is more to do.

“I would strongly encourage all residents and bathers to take part in these consultations to help make sure we continue to have cleaner and healthier waters both now and for future generations.”

If the sites are designated, the Environment Agency will regularly take samples during the bathing season – which runs between 15 May and 30 September. Residents, businesses, farmers and other members of the public are invited to have their say before the consultation closes on 24 March.

When selecting new sites, Defra considers how many people bathe there, if the site has suitable infrastructure and facilities, such as toilets, and where investment in water quality improvements following designation would have the most impact.

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