A ‘Good’ Start to Scotland’s Bathing Water Season

The official bathing water season in Scotland started on 1st June and lasts to 15 September.

  • 94% of Scotland’s designated bathing waters have been rated sufficient or better by SEPA for the 2021 season.
  • More bathing waters (34%) have been rated as ‘excellent’ since tighter standards first came into force in 2015.
  • Half as many bathing waters rated as ‘poor’ than in 2019.
  • Partnership projects are currently underway to maintain progress and further improve bathing waters including the 5 rated as ‘poor.’

As sea bathing increases in popularity, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is encouraging everyone to know where they can find information on their favourite bathing location – and what they can do to help protect our water environment while they are there.

Click on this link to find out about the Bathing Waters classifications

Image credit Noel Donaldson

This season Scotland has more bathing waters rated as excellent, good or sufficient than at any point since tighter standards first came into force in 2015 – with 94% achieving one of the three grades. There are also half as many bathing waters rated poor as there were in 2019 – down to five from the 10 two years ago.

Scotland currently has 85 designated bathing waters, where SEPA monitors water quality during the season, which runs until 15 September. Sampling results are published online, and SEPA also has daily water quality predictions for 28 beaches which are available on its website by 10am daily. This enables visitors to decide whether their activities will include bathing, or if they will just enjoy on-shore activities.

One of the biggest impacts on the water quality at bathing waters is the weather, especially heavy rain. Because of this swimming is not advised at any bathing water during, or one to two days after, heavy rainfall as there is always a risk that water pollution may occur. This can be as a result of urban and agricultural run-off and sewerage sources. 

Due to SEPA’s ongoing recovery from a complex and sophisticated cyber-attack in December 2020, the agency’s network of 29 electronic beach signs will not be fully operational for the start of season. Work is ongoing to re-introduce these over the next few weeks, and the same information is currently available on SEPA’s website.

Samples taken across the season are also used to calculate the general water quality classification for display at the start of the following season. Classifications are excellent, good, sufficient and poor, and are based on four years of monitoring data.

Due to a shortened bathing water season in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was not possible to collect the required number of samples to provide a classification. As a result each bathing water will retain the classification set at the end of 2019 – 29 Excellent; 31 good; 20 sufficient; 5 poor.

Terry A’Hearn, SEPA Chief Executive, said:

“Protecting and improving our bathing waters is crucial for our environment, local economies and communities. We hope Scotland’s weather will enable both residents and visitors to enjoy our seaside resorts and beaches over the summer months, and with 94% of our beaches already meeting strict environmental standards, it’s great to see that there has been a continued general improvement in Scotland’s classifications over the last few years.

“While this is good progress, we understand that some local communities will be disappointed, as we are, that there are five bathing waters which have been rated as poor. Although it is important to remember that a ‘poor’ classification does not mean that water quality is poor every day – and these are still fantastic beaches to visit – SEPA is committed to the challenge of building on the progress Scotland has made and bringing all of our bathing waters up to ‘sufficient’ or better. We encourage you to look at our daily bathing water predictions.

“We continue to work with Scottish Government and our key partner organisations to help all of Scotland’s bathing waters improve in future years. Work is progressing through further investment and infrastructure improvements, along with managing pressures from rural and diffuse pollution and by engaging with communities.”

Live updates from SEPA for Bathing Waters

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