Norfolk’s and Suffolk’s beaches are ready to take the plunge as new stricter standards on water quality are brought in for this summer.
But the good news is that the beaches at Hunstanton main, Wells, Sheringham, East Runton, Cromer, Mundesley, Sea Palling Hemsby, Caister Point, Great Yarmouth South, Great Yarmouth Pier, Gorleston Beach, both beaches at Lowestoft, Sotuhwold The Pier, both beaches at Felixstowe and Dovercourt at Harwich have all been projected as ‘excellent.’
The only beaches to fall below the gold standard are Hunstanton, Old Hunstanton, Great Yarmouth North and Southwold The Denes, which are still projected as ‘good.’
The European standards will be twice as tough to pass as the existing requirement and the Environment Agency is urging water companies, businesses, farmers, local authorities and householders to do everything possible to improve bathing water quality.
Agency staff will be testing water quality throughout the summer, with the results made available through a new Bathing Water Explorer website.
More than 99% of English beaches passed last year’s tests, but this is forecast to drop by 6%, with the water of 25 beaches possibly classed as “poor”.
Each week until the end of September, Environment Agency (EA) officials will wade in to the sea and in to lakes to take water samples at 400 locations across England.
At the end of the summer, sites will have to display signs at all bathing areas showing if the standards have been passed and whether or not people should swim.
The measurements upon which ratings are based assess the levels of certain bacteria, including E. coli and intestinal enterococci, per 100ml of water.
Under the new EU regulations, in order to attain the “excellent” rating, the concentration level of bacteria can be only half of what used to be allowed.
It will also be harder to avoid the bottom “poor rating” under the regulations, introduced in January.
According to the EA, the two most significant sources of pollution that reduce water quality are sewage from water company infrastructure and pollution from agriculture.
The weather can also have a significant impact, with heavy rainfall washing pollution into the sea.
The hot, dry summer of 2013 saw lots of beaches getting an excellent rating, while the downpours of the second wettest summer on record, in 2012, reduced water quality.
This is on top of local issues such as mess created by dogs and seagulls, misconnected drains, or fats being poured down the drains.
However, the condition of the waters of the English coastline has dramatically improved.
In 1988 only 65% of beaches were declared fit for bathers.
Water companies have invested heavily, pouring £2bn into direct improvements to bathing water quality since 1990.
They have also pledged to spend £350bn over the next 15 years.