The best beaches in 20 years

Look how far we've come!

Millions of people enjoy beaches in the North West – taking a dip in the sea, wandering along the beach, playing in the sand, walking the dog, getting some exercise and fresh air, meeting up with friends and sometimes if we’re lucky, basking in the sunshine!

Beaches to be proud of

Since 2012 the safety of the North West coastline has been transformed thanks to the Turning Tides partnership and LOVEmyBEACH campaign. By adopting a “we all need to do our bit” mentality by 2016 all bathing waters were classified as sufficient, good or excellent. However, despite maintaining these standards once again in 2017 we want to do all we can to make the North West an even better place to live, work and play. We are passionate about improving the North West coast for generations to come.

What is water quality and what are the contributors?

The water quality is checked only at key locations called ‘bathing waters’ – designated stretches of water where people swim and paddle; we have 30 of these in the North-west. The Bathing Water Directive measures water quality based on how much bacteria is in the water when the sample is taken. By measuring how much bacteria is in the water we can tell how clean it is. Bacteria can come from many places, including pollution in the sea, litter and dog poo on the beach, or from water washed into the sea from inland, particularly after heavy rain.

Tougher standards since 2015

From 2015 tougher water quality standards came into force – around twice as stringent as the previous standards. The annual classifications – Excellent, Good, Sufficient, Poor – are now based on up to four years of sample results rather than just the year itself. A ‘poor’ classification means the water doesn’t yet meet the new standards, and people are advised not to swim or paddle at that bathing water. This may mean people are put off from using their beach and visitors choose to go elsewhere and could have a negative impact on the reputation of the area, affecting local businesses and tourism, which many people rely on for jobs.

LOVEmyBEACH supporters want our bathing waters to be even cleaner and for our beaches to always meet, and go beyond, the standards. We’re working together to raise water quality standards across the North West so please get involved – small actions can make a difference.


Coastal pollution incidents have the potential to impact on bathing water quality and we are asking beach visitors to report any pollution they spot. Please see our Coastal Pollution leaflet for more information on signs of pollution to look out for and where to report it.


The 5 major sources of pollution in our bathing waters

Pollution from sewage
During very wet weather sewers can become full and, under strict conditions, overflow into rivers or seas.

Water draining from farms and farmland
Manure from livestock or poorly stored slurry can wash into rivers and streams resulting in traces of animal poo entering the sea.

Animals and birds on or near beaches
Dog, bird and other animal poo can affect bathing water as it often contains high levels of bacteria (much higher than treated human waste).

Water draining from populated areas
Water draining from urban areas following heavy rain can contain pollution from a variety of sources, including animal and bird poo.

Domestic sewage
Misconnected drains and poorly located and maintained septic tanks can pollute surface water systems.