Even with the wet summer, Scotland’s bathing waters are making good progress

date17 September 2012

Monitoring results released today by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) show that, in spite of one of the wettest summers on record, 81 of Scotland’s 83 official bathing waters achieved the mandatory “pass” rating for the 2012 summer season.

An improved number of passes were achieved compared to last year, however as in previous years, poor weather resulted in a small percentage of all samples (less than 1%) failing EU quality standards.

Only two locations (Stonehaven and Heads of Ayr) failed overall season compliance under the current EU Bathing Waters Directive.

A smaller number of Scotland’s bathing waters (32 in total) met the more stringent ‘guideline’ standard for water quality than in previous years. Whilst this is unfortunate, it is largely due to the exceptional wet weather and is balanced by the encouraging overall improvement in the mandatory conditions as this is where pollution improvement and public information efforts are focused.

This year the public had more ways than ever to get up to date details on water quality with SEPA providing live information via electronic beach signage, the web, Beachline, mobile phone apps, and also data for Local Authority signs at all beaches. SEPA’s electronic bathing water signs at 23 bathing waters display predicted water quality information and public messages. This has been a successful year for the signs with the daily water quality information and public messages fully operational at every site on almost every day.

Calum McPhail, Environmental Quality Manager for SEPA, said:

This year the revised Bathing Waters Directive, which is now partly in force, has required new parameters, more complex sampling procedures and public information duties. In terms of monitoring bathing water, and providing information to the public, Scotland is already leading the way and this data will help establish new classificatons at the end of the 2015 season.

"This has been the first season of sampling under the new regulations, and it has never been easier for people to access information on bathing conditions and enjoy a great day at the beach.

“While Scotland’s changeable weather patterns and heavy summer rains can have a negative impact on water quality, we will continue to work towards reducing the causes of poor bathing water and ensuring the public is well informed.”

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:

After another extremely wet summer it is encouraging that the number of designated bathing waters achieving the European standard has continued to improve. The enhanced information from SEPA to the public, through beach signs, the website, beachline number and smart phone app is providing accurate daily information and allowing the public to have confidence in the quality of our bathing waters.

“However, there are clearly areas where we need to improve – particularly in managing the impacts caused by the intense rainfall that has been a huge factor this year. In support of this, the Scottish Government and SEPA will continue to work closely with key stakeholders to reduce these impacts on our bathing waters.”

Results for individual beaches across Scotland can be found on our website.


Notes to editors

Ÿ Calum McPhail will be available for interviews on Monday 17 September.

Please telephone the media team on 01786 45 25 65.

EU rules

EU rules mean that if bathing water sampling fails more than once at the official monitoring location, then it has failed overall EU compliance at the end of the season.

Results breakdown

During the 2012 statutory bathing season (which lasted for 107 days from 1 June to 15 September), SEPA monitored Scotland’s 83 official EU designated bathing waters:

Ÿ32 (39%) were classified as being of guideline quality for EU compliance

Ÿ49 (59%) were classified as being of mandatory quality for EU compliance and

Ÿ2 (2%) were classified as being of failing quality for EU compliance.

Total number of samples

SEPA sampled most of the bathing waters 20 times to assess their quality over the course of this year’s season (1 June – 15 September).

During the 2012 bathing season SEPA analysed 1,564 samples from the 83 bathing waters.

15 samples failed to achieve mandatory water quality standards, which was less than 1% of all samples taken during compliance assessment.

12 samples had been taken on dates under predicted short term pollution (with appropriate public signage and information). These 12 samples were discounted and where necessary replaced as required by EU rules and the 2008 Bathing Water (Scotland) Regulations.

Signage and public information

SEPA’s water quality prediction with electronic signage at 23 bathing waters achieved 99% functionality during the 2012 season. The SEPA website, phone line and mobile phone app had 100% functionality.

Rainfall summary for season 2012

Overall the summer of 2012 was very wet and, with the exception of the north-west, much of Scotland received over twice the long term average rainfall.

With the exception of the north-west, June was a very wet month across Scotland and, as for the rest of the UK, this was mainly due to the unusual southerly track of the jet stream. The south of Scotland recorded rainfall over 2.5 times above the normal monthly average. For southern and eastern Scotland, it was the wettest June on record. In contrast drier than average conditions were experienced in the north-west and in Shetland.

The weather pattern that dominated June also lasted well into July, with unsettled weather and intense downpours being commonplace. The south was especially wet and the south east recorded over 2.5 times the long term monthly average. Similar to June, the north received less than average rainfall.

Thunder storms on 5 July included an incredible 90mm of rain recorded in three hours over the Cessnock catchment in Ayrshire which resulted in road flooding and closures. Similar high rainfall totals in central and southern Scotland during that week resulted in some associated flood problems. A northward shift in the jet stream later in July brought relatively more settled conditions to the south.

Southern and eastern Scotland received higher than average rainfall totals in August, where parts of the Borders and Tayside received over 1.5 times the long term monthly average. Again, this was in contrast to the north-west, which was slightly drier than the long term average.