SEPA reports improvements in expected bathing water classifications for 2016 season

date30 September 2016

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) expects that 72 of the 84 designated bathing waters across Scotland will meet the European water quality standards when confirmed classifications are issued by the EU in spring 2017.

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Better bathing water quality has been seen across Scotland this year. The number of bathing waters predicted to achieve the highest ‘excellent’ classification has increased by 53% since last season. In addition to this, overall five more bathing waters are expected to meet the EU water quality class standards than last season.

Tailored improvement plans, prepared by SEPA reflecting collaboration with its partners, are underway at bathing waters with a ‘poor’ classification to help all designated bathing waters across Scotland meet the required standards by 2020.

The Agency expects that, of the 84 designated bathing waters in Scotland:

  • 26 will be rated as ‘excellent’ (up from 17 last season)
  • 36 will be classed as ‘good’
  • 10 will have achieved the ‘sufficient’ standard
  • 12 will be rated as ‘poor’ (down from 17 last season)

This is the second bathing water season under the much stricter water quality standards of the new Bathing Water Directive. Classifications are calculated based on four years of monitoring data, and take the overall number of bacteria into account over this period, to give a more consistent picture of water quality condition when assigning the status of a bathing water area.

As well as tighter water quality standards, the Directive puts an emphasis on information provision for beach users and bathers. During this summer SEPA extended its daily signage network to six additional key beach locations (Fisherrow Sands, Heads of Ayr, Nairn (East and Central), and St Andrews (East and West Sands). This real-time water quality information, across a total of 29 locations, was also available via SEPA’s website, smartphone app and Beachline number.

Calum McPhail, from SEPA’s Environmental Quality Unit, said:

Following the end of the 2016 bathing water season in Scotland it is good to see that an initial analysis of the classifications for 2017 shows a reduction in the number of bathing waters classified as poor, and a general improvement across the other classifications.

“We understand that some local communities will be disappointed, as we are, that there are twelve bathing waters which are expected to be rated as having a ‘poor’ EU classification. We would like to remind the public that a ‘poor’ classification does not necessarily mean that water quality is continually poor, and that these are still fantastic beaches to visit.

“Since SEPA’s regulation and monitoring of EU bathing waters began in 1988, Scottish bathing waters have been increasing in number and improving in quality. Our challenge now is to build upon this progress and bring all of Scotland’s bathing waters up to, at least, the ‘sufficient’ standard through further investment and infrastructure improvements, along with managing pressures from rural and diffuse pollution and by engaging with communities.

“This has been a relatively dry summer for many with lots of people taking the opportunity to enjoy Scotland’s bathing waters. We are pleased to have extended our network of electronic information signs, providing advice and details about any current water quality issues, to more locations this year to help even more people make informed decisions about whether to use bathing waters than ever before.

“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government and our key partner organisations to build on what has been achieved so far and to help all of Scotland’s bathing waters to avoid ‘poor’ classifications.”

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, said:

It is extremely encouraging to see an increase in the number of bathing waters classified as ‘excellent’ and a drop in those classified as ‘poor’. We must build on this progress, working toward all of Scotland’s bathing waters achieving the ‘sufficient’ standard or better.

“Bathing water improvement plans are underway and SEPA, Scottish Water, land managers and local community groups have been working together to improve water quality. We will continue to collaborate on improvements and I would encourage local communities to get involved with this important work, which is at the heart of beach tourism and the economies it supports.”

The final confirmed classifications will be displayed by SEPA and Local Authorities across Scotland’s beaches for next year’s bathing water season (1 June – 15 September).

The data behind the new classifications can be accessed and visualised using our bathing waters data explorer tool on Scotland’s Environment Web.

Notes to editors 

The predicted classifications are as follows:

Bathing Water

Predicted classification

Aberdour (Silversands)

Excellent

Achmelvich

Excellent

Anstruther (Billow Ness)

Excellent

Balmedie

Excellent

Broughty Ferry

Excellent

Carrick

Excellent

Crail (Roome Bay)

Excellent

Dornoch

Excellent

Dunnet

Excellent

Elie (Harbour) and Earlsferry

Excellent

Elie (Ruby Bay)

Excellent

Fraserburgh (Philorth)

Excellent

Ganavan

Excellent

Gullane

Excellent

Kingsbarns

Excellent

Largs (Pencil Beach)

Excellent

Loch Morlich

Excellent

Machrihanish

Excellent

Millport Bay

Excellent

Montrose

Excellent

Pease Bay

Excellent

Rosehearty

Excellent

Seacliff

Excellent

Southerness

Excellent

St Andrews (East Sands)

Excellent

Thorntonloch

Excellent

Aberdeen

Good

Aberdour Harbour (Black Sands)

Good

Arbroath (West Links)

Good

Broad Sands

Good

Burntisland

Good

Carnoustie

Good

Coldingham

Good

Collieston

Good

Cullen Bay

Good

Culzean

Good

Dores

Good

Dunbar (Belhaven)

Good

Dunbar (East)

Good

Ettrick Bay

Good

Findhorn

Good

Inverboyndie

Good

Kinghorn (Pettycur)

Good

Kirkcaldy (Seafield)

Good

Leven

Good

Longniddry

Good

Lossiemouth (East)

Good

Lunan Bay

Good

Lunderston Bay

Good

Luss Bay

Good

Maidens

Good

Mossyard

Good

North Berwick (Milsey Bay)

Good

North Berwick (West)

Good

Peterhead (Lido)

Good

Rosemarkie

Good

Seamill

Good

Seton Sands

Good

St Andrews (West Sands)

Good

Stonehaven

Good

Thurso

Good

Whitesands

Good

Brighouse Bay

Sufficient

Dhoon Bay

Sufficient

Fraserburgh (Tiger Hill)

Sufficient

Girvan

Sufficient

Irvine

Sufficient

Portobello (Central)

Sufficient

Prestwick

Sufficient

Rockcliffe

Sufficient

Saltcoats/Ardrossan

Sufficient

Troon (South Beach)

Sufficient

Ayr (South Beach)

Poor

Cruden Bay

Poor

Eyemouth

Poor

Fisherrow Sands

Poor

Heads of Ayr

Poor

Kinghorn (Harbour Beach)

Poor

Monifieth

Poor

Nairn (Central)

Poor

Nairn (East)

Poor

Portobello (West)

Poor

Sandyhills

Poor

Yellow Craig

Poor