Bathing water classifications for 2021 show that 99% of bathing waters in England have passed water quality standards following testing by the Environment Agency at over 400 designated sites. Of these, 94.7% of beaches and inland waters gained an ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ rating while 4.3% achieved the minimum ‘Sufficient’ rating. This compares with 98.3% passing the required standards in 2019, and is the highest number since new standards were introduced in 2015.

Bathing waters are monitored for sources of pollution known to be a risk to bathers’ health, with up to 20 samples taken from each site during the bathing season. Each sample is tested for bacteria, specifically E coli and intestinal enterococci.

Commenting on the latest bathing water figures, Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd said: “With billions spent on seaside visits every year, we know good water quality helps coastal towns prosper.”

She continued: “We cannot afford to be complacent. Public confidence in water quality has faltered in recent years with new evidence of pollution incidents getting much-needed attention as a result of some excellent campaigning.

Surfers Against Sewage stated that the new bathing waters classifications in England show progress to clean up our coastlines is stalling. The new figures show that 71% of bathing waters have received excellent bathing water status compared to 72% of bathing waters when last classified in 2019. This suggests that nearly 30% of our beaches still need cleaning up if they are going to reach the highest standards. Whilst the percentage of bathing waters now ranked excellent or good slightly increased from 93% to 95% such a small improvement over 2 years doesn’t reflect the rapid improvements that are needed to protect the environment and public health.

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