Summer success – all Scotland's bathing waters pass this season

date16 September 2013

Scotland's 2013 bathing water season ended yesterday (15 September) with all 83 beaches passing European water quality standards.

The fine weather over the summer resulted in all our bathing waters achieving at least the mandatory standard, and with 47 (57%) additionally gaining the stricter guideline standard. This has been the first summer with no failures since 2006, where we also experienced a dry summer.

Since the season began on 1 June, SEPA has taken 1,650 bathing water samples. Only eight individual samples exceeded the limits and failed to reach mandatory level (0.5%). Three samples were also taken on dates when we predicted poor water quality due to rainfall, and were discounted as appropriate electronic signage was in place advising against bathing on these days.

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

Calum McPhail, Environmental Quality manager for SEPA, said:

2013 has clearly been the best year on record. Whilst 2006 also recorded a 100% pass rate the results this year include 20 more bathing waters due to additional designations in the intervening period. Moreover, this year an even greater proportion of bathing waters reached the highest guideline standard.

"The success of bathing water seasons in Scotland is very weather dependent, as changeable weather patterns and heavy summer rains can have a negative impact on water quality. This year we have enjoyed a good run of dry months, although there were a few periods of very heavy rain in June and July in both the North and West of the country.

"These results clearly demonstrate the benefit of a dry summer, where lower than normal heavy rainfall events have led to less water running off land which can carry contaminants into streams, burns and rivers (diffuse pollution). SEPA has been working closely with many partners to raise awareness of the risks and impacts of pollution, and measures to reduce them, so that wet weather will have less of a role to play in how our beaches perform every summer."

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:

Scotland's beaches are on a par with some of Europe's finest, and after a good summer, when we have all had had the opportunity to enjoy the weather and for many to visit our beaches, it is good to see that the water quality at all our designated bathing waters has met the required European standard."

"A lot of work has been carried out by Scottish Government and SEPA, in association with other partners, in catchments where water quality is at risk. This has been reflected in monitoring with the highest ever number of samples achieving the top water quality standard being recorded. This work will continue, to ensure that, in future, families can enjoy a day at the beach and have confidence in the quality of the water.

"In parallel with this, SEPA is working with groups representing the water sports community, such as surfers, to examine the options for improving information relating to water quality at relevant locations outside of the designated bathing water season."



Notes to editors

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.

SEPA's role

The bathing water sampling and testing by SEPA < SareScotland's official bathing water quality monitoring results. These results are reported to the European Commission on an annual basis. In addition, a number of other organisations use these SEPA results to apply various beach award and guide schemes.

Results breakdown

During the 2013 statutory bathing season (which lasted for 107 days from 1 June to 15 September), SEPA monitored Scotland's 83 official EU designated bathing waters:

  • 47 (57%) were classified as being of guideline quality for EU compliance.
  • 36 (43%) were classified as being of mandatory quality for EU compliance.

Comparison to 2006

  • 2006 – 34 out of 63 beaches reached guideline quality (54%).
  • 2013 – 47 out of 83 beaches reached guideline quality (57%).

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 2013 bathing season SEPA analysed a total of 1,650 samples from the 83 bathing waters.

Abnormal situations

There was one period this season (25 July to 31 July) when SEPA declared an abnormal situation for Stonehaven bathing water and issued appropriate signage warnings in line with Regulations. This was following lightning strike damage to sewerage infrastructure, although subsequent investigative water samples confirmed that this had been a precautionary measure.

Weather and rainfall

  • June - drier than average for the majority of Scotland with the exception of the Orkney and Shetland Isles. Rainfall in the Forth area was below the 1996-2012 monthly average rainfall at approximately 38.7% with the monthly total average for the area at 33.9mm which is the lowest recorded for June between 1996 and 2012.
  • July - drier than average for the all of Scotland with the exception of the Clyde which received approximately 105% of the 1996-2012 monthly average. Rainfall in the North Highlands received the least rainfall at just 53% of the 1996-2012. The Forth has received rainfall below the 1996-2012 monthly average for the seventh month in a row.
  • August - drier than average for the majority of Scotland. There are, however, three catchments that received more rainfall than the 1996 – 2012 monthly average. These were Orkney and Shetland, West Highland, and Argyll. The Forth received the least amount of expected rainfall at just 49.2%, and has received rainfall below the 1996-2012 monthly average for the eighth month in a row.