Over the last 20 years we’ve made huge progress in making our beaches and bathing waters cleaner.
In 1988 only 18% of our bathing waters met minimum standards, in 2016 this was 100%.
Below is information on how we got there and how we’ll keep it that way…

2014 bathing water season starts

The 2014 bathing water season runs from May to September when staff from the Environment Agency test the levels of bacteria in 20 samples taken from the water. The results of the tests are posted on our map for each bathing water.

Keith Ashcroft from the Environment Agency, said:
“When water quality does not meet the required standard we work with the local authority to inform the public. Our testing shows that the most likely sources of pollution come from households with wrongly connected drains, run off from agricultural land, sewer overflows following heavy rain and even dog poo that has washed into the sea. We all have a role to play in improving our bathing waters and people can make a stand against this localised pollution today by supporting the LOVEmyBEACH campaign.”

As well as the sampling, there is also a system in place to advise the public against swimming and paddling after heavy rain. Rain washes pollution into rivers, lakes and seas, causing short term pollution, which may last for up to 72 hours. Look out for an advice sign when visiting the beach after it’s rained.

The short term pollution (STP) scheme could help a number of North West bathing waters to meet the EU revised Bathing Water Directive. If a sign is displayed when the Environment Agency comes to test the water, and if certain other conditions are also satisfied, the results of that week’s test could be discounted from the overall score for the year.
This ensures that at beaches where water quality is normally good, the long term classifications will reflect this, tourism is supported and the local economy is protected. But most importantly, it makes sure that when bathing water is likely to have temporarily deteriorated, people are informed of the short term risks of swimming there.

Neil Jack, Chair of Turning tides, said: “Although due to the geography of the North West we face a tough challenge in meeting much stricter EU standards, through hard work and support for the LOVEmyBEACH campaign, we are committed to having beaches we can be proud of. That’s why we’re asking local communities and businesses to get behind us and help prevent pollution from getting into our water. You don’t have to live by the sea to make a difference. Taking simple steps such as not to pouring cooking fats, oils and grease down the sink, picking up your dog’s poo and putting it in the bin, not feeding the birds at the beach (yes really!) and checking your drain connections can really help make our seas cleaner.”

SEA LIFE Blackpool is a keen supporter of the LOVEmyBEACH campaign to reduce pollution that ends up in the sea and affects the water. Jenn Newton, SEA LIFE’s manager explains:
“We’re really proud how far the area’s come in improving the quality of water at our beaches. But we need to do more if we are to meet the stricter EU Directive coming into force in 2015. If the results over the previous four years are ‘poor’ under what’s called the ‘revised Bathing Water Directive’, signs will have to go up advising people not to swim or paddle. We don’t want that to happen. It’s important people know about the simple things that they can do which make a difference to the water quality. The standards may be changing but the sea is much cleaner than it used to be.”

SEA LIFE Blackpool supports the LOVEmyBEACH campaign through regular beach cleans, letting staff and visitors know how they can help at home and when visiting the area.

The LOVEmyBEACH campaign is a great way for anyone who lives, works or visits the North West to make a difference and help improve the North West’s bathing waters. And if you spot pollution, please call the Environment Agency incident line on 0800 80 70 60.

Environment Agency water sampler

Horsing around

There’s nothing quite like riding your horse on a beautiful North West beach! Joss Halsall and her friends were recently riding at Ainsdale beach. She said:

“We love bringing the horses to Ainsdale. We travel over from Appley Bridge to exercise them on the beach. We know how lucky we are to have this space so we respect that we need to look after it while we’re here. People need to bag their horse poo and take it back with them. It’s courtesy towards other beach users after all and helps LOVEmyBEACH!”

If you’re a horse owner and love riding on the beaches in the North West, please follow the code of conduct on your favourite beach and like Joss and her friends, only ride where horses are permitted. Sefton’s coast is a haven for wildlife and riders are asked not to take their horses into the dunes or through or near flocks of wading birds on the foreshore.

Please bag your horse’s poo and dispose of it back at your stables to help us have cleaner seas. Animal poo could cause designated bathing waters such as Ainsdale to fail water quality tests. If that happens, people could be advised not to swim or paddle in the water, affecting tourism and local communities. So please look after the beach when you’re there. For more information on taking horses on Sefton’s beaches, go to http://www.sefton.gov.uk/around-sefton/coast-countryside/beaches.aspx

Horses on Ainsdale beach

Sian studies water quality

North West student Sian Leake has been knee deep in her studies, examining the effects of rainfall on bathing water quality.

Sian, who’s 22 and from Chester, teamed up with the Environment Agency to write her dissertation on the relationship between low water quality, heavy rain and high tides over the last 10 years.

The dissertation was for Sian’s degree, a BSc in Environmental Sciences at Leeds University. Thousands of words and lots of hard work later, she was able to prove the relationship between high levels of rainfall and poorer bathing water quality at four of our North West beaches, Fleetwood, Cleveleys, Blackpool South and St Annes North.

During periods of heavy rain, pollution can be washed off farmland and salt marshes, ending up in rivers and eventually our seas. It normally takes around 72 hours for a bathing water to recover from short term pollution. This summer, beaches across the North West will put up signs advising people when short term pollution is likely to affect water quality.

As well as learning about water quality, she also got a chance to work with Turning tides partner, the Environment Agency to find out about the work that’s being done.

“The Environment Agency was amazing!” she said. “They suggested a title, gave me data for analysis, sent over site photos, checked my methodology section and answered any questions I had. I would email over questions and 95% of the time get an answer the same day, I felt so blessed to have such amazing help!”

Sian is yet to receive her final mark for the paper, but we wish her all the best!

Sian Leake dissertation