Safer Seas Service
*Update October 2016*
The 2016 bathing season has now come to a close, this means that changes take place on the Safer Seas Service. The service runs on a reduced coverage due to water companies withdrawing real-time data to some beaches and the Environment Agency bringing the Pollution Risk Forecasting service to an end for the year.
The Safer Seas Service will continue to report free real-time CSO data at 117 beaches year round thanks to continued data provision from Wessex Water, Yorkshire Water, Northumbrian Water and Welsh Water. South West Water and United Utilities will provide selected beach data until the end of October.
SAS continue to call on water companies and the Environment Agency to provide year-round water quality information at every recreational water in the UK. The best way you can echo this call is to support SAS; find out how here.
The Safer Seas Service is the only national real-time water quality app that protects all water users from pollution. This pioneering free service alerts water users when sewer overflows discharge untreated human sewage into the sea and when water quality is reduced by diffuse pollution at 330 beaches across England and Wales. The Safer Seas Service is the first and only national service to inform you, in real time, when untreated human sewage and diffuse pollution is impacting water quality at your favourite beach. This information keeps you safe, allowing you to make an informed decision about how, when and where you use the sea.
Untreated sewage and wastewater frequently discharges from sewer overflows right around the UK, sometimes significantly reducing water quality. When this reaches dangerous levels, SAS is notified by participating water companies and issues a real-time sewage alert so surfers and other beach users can avoid this potentially harmful pollution incident.
Water quality can also be reduced by diffuse pollution, which is the term given to pollution from multiple, often unidentified sources. Examples include road, urban and agricultural run-off and leakage from septic tanks. Contaminants can include pathogens, hydrocarbons, heavy metals and organic substances. When these sources combine, they can often have a significant impact on water quality. The Environment Agency make daily predictions relating to the impacts of diffuse pollution. The Safer Seas Service reports these daily predictions, both for good and poor water quality, in real- time and for free.
During the 2015 bathing season the Safer Seas Service issued 3,045 free, real-time messages warning users of reduced water quality. These warnings are vital as there are serious illnesses associated with using polluted waters.
Whilst the Safer Seas Service is an effective tool in allowing water users to make the most informed decision about how, when and where they use the sea, it’s not a solution to address the underlying causes of these all too frequent sewage pollution incidents.
Surfers Against Sewage sits on a European Commission expert panel reviewing the bathing water directive, Defra’s Cleaner Seas Forum and various regional Bathing Water Liaison Groups. We are calling for more urgent action to address on-going sewage pollution at our beaches including:
- A review of how the UK implements the Bathing Water Directive, ensuring bathing water quality is tested at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place, thus protecting the bathers, surfers and water users most at risk.
- Increasing water company obligations to introduce more effective and faster investment to remove current sewer overflow assets with priority awarded to sensitive areas such as bathing waters, recreational watersports zones and Sites of Special Surfing Interest.
- Mandatory year-round sewer overflow warnings introduced for all affected UK beaches regularly used by the public to protect public heath where the current water quality-testing regime fails to.
- A strict, legally binding limit of 3 sewer overflow discharges per season, per sewer overflow asset. Discharges should only be acceptable in extreme weather events.
- A ban on water companies installing all new sewer overflow assets directly impacting areas of the coastline important for public recreation or other environmentally sensitive areas.
SAS’s free Safer Seas Service is this summer’s must have beach accessory and is available as an App and web-based map, issuing pollution warnings for 330 popular UK beaches.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs