Astonishingly that is not even a daily mail headline. The BBC reported this week that from September this year 25 beaches across the UK may have ‘Poor’ bathing water quality according to the new European bathing water standards. However the question remains, do we care? After all, the 6% increase in beaches with ‘poor’ water quality is probably due to the moving of the goal posts. The new bathing water standards are twice as strict as previous standards, (I can almost hear the uproar from the anti-European contingent!) which means that these beaches probably have the same water quality as they did a year ago; in fact, the water quality at these sites is likely to be the best they have been for decades. So I ask again, why do we care?
Although the new bathing water standards are moving the goal posts and don’t really show that most bathing waters in the UK have been improving in quality over the past decade, they are a real step in the right direction! Improvements in UK bathing and drinking water has undoubtedly led to improved public health and local authorities and the water industry need encouragement to continue this trend.
Water quality is something which the public are generally unaware of. This is incredible, it means that UK water quality is so good we rarely question it! However, it does mean that we take it for granted. Some bathing waters still present a real risk to the health of users and local councils and water companies work hard to make improvements which often go unnoticed by the public. The new bathing water standards now require the bathing water quality to be communicated to the public at the beach. Signs should be visible to the public before they enter the water. Hopefully this will reduce any risk to health and improve our awareness of the quality of bathing waters as well as how our actions can impact on water quality and the environment. Our actions can have a huge impact on water quality, from not picking up dog poo from beaches next to bathing waters to putting nappies down the toilet! In times of high rainfall both of these things may impact bathing water and putting anything like nappies or sanitary products down the toilet can affect the treatment of wastewater and cause water quality issues.
If you use a bathing water near you regularly download the ‘Surfers Against Sewage’ app which gives you fairly up to date info, or check out the environment agency website to look at your closest bathing water.