This Valentine’s Day clean water lovers, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), will launch their first new campaign for 2009, the ‘Love Your Beach’ campaign. Love Your Beach will enable recreational water users to apply for ‘bathing water’ designation for their recreational water sites, providing them with extra protection under current legislation.

SAS campaigners are encouraging recreational water users to demonstrate how much they adore their beloved recreational waters. Obviously SAS will assist, but we need water users all over the country to make that loving gesture, use their local knowledge and enter their local recreational water site into the Love Your Beach campaign. It couldn’t be easier, simply go to the SAS website and fill out a short questionnaire. It will only take 2 minutes, and if you really, really love your beach, upload a photo.

Recreational waters have little or no protection. The step up to designated bathing waters will see a recreational water site’s facilities dramatically improve. There are several criteria that a recreational water site must meet to become a successfully designated bathing water. Most importantly, the recreational water site needs to be popular with bathers and/or other recreational water users specifically within the May to September ‘bathing’ season.

A recreational water’s successful designation as a “bathing water” will ensure the site receives weekly water quality testing during the bathing season and displays this water quality information to the public. It may also prove to be a driver for improved levels of sewage treatment in the area.

In 2008 there were 414 identified bathing waters in England, 81 in Wales, 80 in Scotland and 24 in Northern Ireland, making a total of 599 bathing waters across the UK. Of these sites, 587 are coastal waters and 12 are inland freshwater sites and they are often referred to as designated ‘bathing waters’.

Many of the current bathing waters will already be ‘surfing beaches’ or well used by other recreational water users and, as such, are now benefiting from cleaner, safer water quality. However, around the UK there remains beaches and inland waters in the UK that are used by a large number of recreational water users but remain undesignated and therefore unprotected.

In England and Wales, DEFRA will consider the identification of new coastal or inland bathing waters on receipt of an application, normally from the relevant local authority. The process is similar for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Public participation is now encouraged in the new Directive (again partly thanks to SAS’s campaigning!!). If SAS believe that a site, which is not on the list of bathing waters, falls within the remit of the EU Bathing Water Directive we will contact the local authority for that site, urging them to make an application.

SAS already have some beaches on our radar, which we’d like to make applications for, but we are relying on recreational water users help to identify others. This is essentially what the ‘Love Your Beach’ campaign is about.

SAS Campaigns Director, Andy Cummins, says: “The new Love Your Beach campaign is a fantastic opportunity for recreational water users all over the UK to help protect their precious surf spots and recreational waters. A successful designation of a new bathing water will ensure the protection of all it’s users under current legislation.”