High standards for UK bathing waters
Over the years, the cleanliness of water has come under close scrutiny. The craze for drinking bottled water didn’t hit hard until the late 80’s, even though Evian has been around since 1896, Perrier since 1898 and San Pellegrino since well before 1899.
For many people, bottled water was the alternative to a tap water which was rumored to contain arsenic, E.coli and a host of other undesirable bacteria and chemicals. Since the environmentalists have gained prominence and power, our drinking water supplies have been rigidly regulated and under strict guidelines, transformed into an eco-friendly solution, further enhanced by water filters and softeners.
We have finally become a nation that does not take clean drinking water for granted. We are constantly striving to improve the taste, delivery and longevity of our water supply. On the back of this it seems that our bathing water is also being brought into line with quality standards being implemented. In 1976 the European Commission’s Bathing Water Directive was set up to ‘protect human health and the environment from pollution’.
This legislation was revised in 2006 to include a change to the way bathing water quality was assessed. Christine Tuckett, the Environment Agency’s head of bathing waters, explained that the studies of bathing waters are concentrating on the levels of E. coli and intestinal enterococci, among other indicators of bacteria.
Results from 20 years of tests show dramatic improvements due to a number of factors, including the encouragement of water companies, farmers, local authorities and businesses to work harmoniously to improve water quality. The outcome of these measures is highlighted by last year’s success: 97% of England’s bathing waters passing the minimum standard for EU Bathing Water Directive compared to a pitiful 27% in 1990.
Bathing waters (beaches, lakes or ponds that are used by a large number of bathers) are operational from 15 May to 30 September each year. For many people, bathing and recreation is as vital for the heart and mind as the consumption of water is for our bodily organs. Whether it’s cold water swimming, paddlesports or simply bathing in open waters, these water activities will always be a huge part of many people’s lives and for others, provide their livelihood.
With many of our UK beaches constantly being berated for their poor hygiene, it’s good to finally see headlines such as: “Water quality at beaches is better than any time in living memory, with dramatic improvements having been made over the last few decades.” – from Dr Pete Fox, Director of Land & Water at the Environment Agency
Some of the actions taken to improve bathing water include:
- United Utilities is investing £100 million to improve the water quality along the Blackpool coastline by 2020.
- Pollution into Alexandra Park Stream is being minimised by filtering bacteria through ponds with floating islands.
- The bird dropping pollution problem at Teignmouth Town beach is being averted with anti-bird roosting measures under the main pier buildings.
- In many rural areas, fencing off nearby streams and encouraging farming campaigns has helped to reduce pollution entering into local waters.
[Photo by unsplash]