Scotland has highest number of bathing waters ever – as two new locations designated for 2022

  10 May 2022
Lower Largo in Fife and Barassie in Ayrshire are now Scottish designated bathing waters following a decision by Minister for Environment and Land Reform, Mairi McAllan MSP. This brings the total number of bathing waters in Scotland to 87, the highest number on record.
  • Minister for Environment and Land Reform, Mairi McAllan, designates Lower Largo in Fife and Barassie in Ayrshire as Scottish bathing waters. 
  • Designations brings the total number of Bathing Waters in Scotland to 87 – the highest number on record.
  • Locals and visitors are encouraged to play their part in protecting and improving the quality of the new bathing waters.   
  • Two further applications for bathing waters did not meet the criteria for designation.

Four applications were received for designation in 2022 and considered by the Bathing Water Review Panel. Recommendations based on the criteria for designation were passed to the Minister for Environment and Land Reform who has made the following decisions:

The applications for Lower Largo in Fife, submitted by Largo Area Community Council with support from Fife Council, and Barassie in Ayr, submitted by Friends of Troon beaches with support from South Ayrshire Council, showed they met the criteria for bathing water designation: 

  • A large number of bathers use the bathing water.
  • There was community support for designation
  • There was support from the local authority and willingness to accept beach management duties.  

Two applications did not meet the criteria for designation.

Evidence provided with the application for Wardie Bay in Edinburgh demonstrated it met two of the criteria for bathing water designation, as a large number of bathers use the bathing water during the season and there was community support for the designation. The third criteria, around beach management, has not yet been met.

The application for Almondell in West Lothian did not demonstrate large numbers of bathers, which is required for designation to be considered. SEPA remains committed to continuing to take an active approach to reducing pollution incidents and delivering significant environmental improvements in the Almond catchment.  

New status 

Local outdoor spaces are integral to our physical and mental health and managing them well can improve well-being and other social and cultural benefits for local communities and visitors alike.  

Scotland’s official bathing water season runs between 1 June and 15 September. SEPA takes water samples over the full three and half months, and after analysis the results are posted online. Pre-season sampling is carried out during May.

Monitoring water quality in this way means SEPA can provide information on water quality for bathing and develop a strategy for any water quality improvements needed.

Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said:

“The new Bathing Waters status for Barassie Beach and Lower Largo is great news for the local communities, and will support the large number of residents and tourists who enjoy taking a dip at these seaside locations.

“By investing in protecting and improving bathing waters across Scotland we have made sure many more people can continue to enjoy them with 99% of bathing waters passing bathing water quality standards in 2021.”

Nathan Critchlow-Watton, SEPA’s Interim Head of Water and Planning, added: 

“Scotland's natural environment is world renowned. Our waters are at their best status on record and the best in the UK, including 99% of bathing waters meeting strict environmental standards in 2021. As well as the physical and mental health benefits that being outdoors can provide, bathing waters can support local economies by encouraging visitors.

“With Lower Largo and Barassie designated for the 2022 season, Scotland now has more bathing waters than any previous year. This is good news for the communities, businesses and visitors that enjoy our coastlines. SEPA's specialist teams will take samples at all our bathing waters throughout the season, providing water quality information for all those who wish to visit. 

“SEPA has worked for over 20 years to drive improvements in water quality - through targeted regulation and working with others to achieve significant investment. We will continue to work to protect and improve water quality across Scotland with a range of stakeholders, including local authorities, farmers and land managers and Scottish Water. We will use our expertise to provide advice and guidance, recommend actions and – when it is appropriate to do so - take robust enforcement action.”

Simon Parsons, Director of Strategic Customer Service Planning, Scottish Water, said:

“Scottish Water are committed to continuing to support the protection and improvement of Scotland’s rivers, coastal waters and beaches.  

“We look forward to playing our part in ensuring these new bathing waters become destinations for people to enjoy Scotland’s fantastic coastal waters.

“We recently published its urban waters route map announcing plans to invest up to half a billion pounds more in Scotland’s waste water network to deliver further improvements and ensure that Scotland’s rivers, beaches and urban waters are free from sewage related debris.

“All our customers can play a huge part in preventing debris in rivers and on beaches. Our new national campaign ‘Nature Calls’ urges customers not to flush wet wipes (and other items) down the toilet and we are calling for a complete ban on the sale of wet wipes containing plastic.” 

Help improve our beaches and coastlines  

Communities and visitors to Scotland’s beaches can also help to protect our water environment, even when they’re not there.  

It’s important that people understand the impact what they flush away can have on the environment - and their local bathing water. Every year Scottish Water teams deal with around 36,000 blockages, costing customers about £7 million annually, and around 80% of those are caused by people flushing the wrong items down the toilet, or pouring fats, oil and grease down the sink. These blockages in the sewer system can result in spills of pollution into the environment. 

Whether you are at home, at work or on holiday, Scottish Water provides advice on how to protect the network, and Scotland’s water environment, at scottishwater.co.uk/naturecalls 

Protecting our bathing waters while at the beach is also vital. Waste from animals or litter is not just unsightly, it can have a negative impact on the environment. So, visitors are encouraged to take litter home, clean up after their dogs and avoid feeding the gulls, ensuring a good beach experience for everyone who visits. Find out more at keepscotlandbeautiful.org/mybeachyourbeach 

Ends

 

Wardie Bay

  • The application for bathing water status was submitted by Wardie Bay Beachwatch . Evidence provided with the application confirmed that Wardie Bay had a large number of bathers during the season, and there was community support for the designation.
  • Given the level of community use and the commitment from City of Edinburgh Council to continue to work towards accepting the beach management responsibilities, SEPA will sample the bathing water from May to September 2022. Results will be publicly available on a dedicated section of SEPA’s website.

Almondell

  • The application for bathing water status was submitted by Forth Rivers Trust and West Lothian Council. Demonstrating consistent large numbers of bathers is one of the main criteria for designation – as this was not met, Almondell has not been designated.
  • SEPA remains committed to taking an active approach to reducing pollution incidents and delivering significant environmental improvements in the Almond catchment. In addition, it has been a constructive participant in the River Almond Water Quality Improvement Group since its inception in June 2021.
  • The regulator has agreed with Scottish Water that upgrades in seven wastewater treatments works and spill reduction measures on five combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are required, along with significant investment to address sewage litter from unsatisfactory CSOs.
  • Intelligent monitoring of sewer overflows in the East Calder catchment, which will lead to better understanding of what can be done to reduce spills. As set out in the Improving Urban Waters route map, this will also enable near real-time data to be provided to the public from 2024.
  • There have been significant improvements in the Almond water environment in the last two decades. The improvements in sewage infrastructure are expected to continue to improve the river ecology to modern standards and maintain minimum public health standards.

Bathing water designation process

Any organisation or individual can put forward a bathing water to be considered for designation.

Applicants need to provide good information about the number of beach users, both in and around the water, throughout the bathing season. This is usually in the form of photographic evidence of people in the water or a survey of user numbers. More information, including designation application forms, is available on SEPA’s website at Bathing Waters : Designation (sepa.org.uk)

Once the application and supporting evidence has been received, it will be considered by the Bathing waters review panel which is chaired by SEPA. The 2021 panel members were:

  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • Marine Conservation Scotland
  • Keep Scotland Beautiful
  • The Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health in Scotland

Panel observers (no voting rights)

  • Scottish Government
  • Scottish Water

The panel makes recommendations to the Scottish Government’s Minister for Environment, who decides which beaches are designated before the next bathing water season.

Scotland’s bathing waters

More information on Scotland’s bathing waters is available on SEPA’s website. This includes an interactive map of current bathing waters, the 2021 classifications and is also where sample results will be published as they are analysed.