Scotland's 2013 bathing water season starts

date31 May 2013

Hoping for a long, dry summer? People considering a day out or holiday in Scotland will be pleased to know that the bathing waters season begins this weekend, (Saturday 1 June).

Between this weekend and Sunday 15 September, when the season finishes, officers from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will collect and analyse over 1,500 bathing water samples from 83 bathing waters.

SEPA's electronic bathing water signage system, one of the largest real time public information systems in the UK after roads and rail, will operate daily at 23 locations telling beach visitors the predicted water quality by 10.00 on the day of their visit. Information will also be available on SEPA's website, via the mobile bathing waters site and through Beachline.

Calum McPhail, SEPA's Environment Quality manager for bathing waters, said:

Everyone is hoping for a good summer this year, and the weather over the coming months will be a significant factor affecting the quality of bathing waters. The recent spell of good weather has had a lot of people heading to the beach to enjoy days out and, of course, we hope that this will continue until September. Pre-season samples have already been taken at all our bathing waters and all results available so far have show passes of the mandatory water quality standard and most the higher guideline standard as well. Unfortunately Scotland's weather is not always that compliant but, with more information and more ways to access that information, we hope everyone will be able to enjoy their beach visits.

"Last year more than 99% of the samples we took across the season passed European bathing water standards, and 81 of our beaches passed. Unfortunately two beaches did fail, largely due to Scotland experiencing one of the wettest summers on record. Rain can cause problems due to run-off from roads, houses and commercial areas, and farmland. Exceptionally heavy rain can also cause combined sewer overflows, designed to stop overwhelmed sewerage systems backing up into people's properties, to discharge to the water environment.

"The dates for sampling have been set and fixed in advance of the bathing season as required by Regulations. For most sites we sample on the date in the monitoring calendar unless there is an unexpected operational reason, like a vehicle breakdown. At sites which have daily real time forecasting of bathing water quality and electronic beach message signage we may occasionally, during storms and heavy rainfall, sample within the allowed five day sampling window to avoid sampling when the sign gives a poor water quality warning and we have actively advised against bathing.

"SEPA is continuing to work with other organisations, including Scottish Water, local authorities, the farming community and Scottish Government to continue to improve the quality of the bathing waters by planning to further reduce and limit pollution through the river basin planning process."

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:

Good clean bathing waters are essential to tourism and providing leisure opportunities for visitors and local residents in many parts of Scotland. In the Year of Natural Scotland it's important that we encourage people to play their own part in protecting our renowned water environment - for our health, our enjoyment and for the prosperity of all those who depend upon bathing water quality for their livelihood."

SEPA's role in the monitoring and protection of Scotland's bathing waters will be a key element of our offering at this year's Royal Highland Show.

As The Scottish Government has designated 2013 as the 'Year of Natural Scotland' SEPA will be championing the vital contribution which water, as one of Scotland's greatest natural resources, makes to the country's environment and economy.

SEPA, along with our other partners in SEARS (Scotland's Environment and Rural Service), will be at the event on 20-23 June 2013 with a range of information and activities. Amongst these will be an exploration of the journey of water from raindrop to sea. This will show, amongst other things, how actions at the top of a river catchment can have an effect on bathing waters at the other end.

Calum McPhail added:

We encourage people attending the Royal Highland Show to visit the SEARS tent to see the work we all do. By regulating, monitoring, researching and informing, we're protecting and improving the wonderful environment we are lucky enough to live in and hope that we can help to ensure that Scotland's outstanding natural beauty can be celebrated for many years to come."


Notes to editors

Some photographs of bathing water signs and water sampling are also available, please contact SEPA's media team on 01786 45 25 65 or by email on

  • The bathing water season in Scotland runs from 1 June – 15 September every year.

  • Beachline number 08452 30 30 98 for a real time water quality forecast.

  • The two bathing waters that failed for the 2012 season were Stonehaven and Heads of Ayr.

  • Scotland has 83 designated bathing waters. Profiles for each one can be viewed online.

  • The 23 bathing waters with electronic signs are as follows. More information can be found online.
  1. Aberdeen
  2. Ayr (South Beach)
  3. Brighouse Bay 
  4. Cruden Bay 
  5. Dhoon Bay  
  6. Ettrick Bay
  7. Eyemouth
  8. Irvine
  9. Kirkcaldy (Seafield)
  10. Largs (Pencil Beach)
  11. Lossiemouth (East)
  12. Luss Bay
  13. Millport Bay
  14. Portobello (Central)
  15. Portobello (West)
  16. Prestwick
  17. Rockcliffe
  18. Saltcoats/Ardrossan
  19. Sandyhills
  20. Seamill
  21. Southerness
  22. Stonehaven
  23. Troon (South Beach)
  • Further information about the criteria used in monitoring Bathing Water Standards is available on our website.

  • The current EU Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) was created to protect and enhance the quality of bathing waters throughout Europe. SEPA is now working with the Scottish Government during the implementation of their strategy 'Better bathing waters - meeting the challenge of the revised Bathing Waters Directive on Scotland' aimed at developing and meeting requirements of the revised Bathing Waters Directive as enacted by the Bathing Waters (Scotland) Regulations 2008, with first reporting against the revised directive expected in 2015.