Bathing Water Designation creates blue spaces where water quality is officially monitored for harmful bacteria and viruses, with legal obligations placed on industry to stop sewage and agricultural pollution. This provides a powerful indicator of the state of our water and drives real change.
But, at present, there is just one official Bathing Water located on a UK river. This must change.
The UK’s rivers are in a critical state.
The UK’s rivers are spiralling towards environmental collapse, posing a serious threat to human health to the increasing number of people who use them for their physical and mental wellbeing.
Despite this, every fortnight, over 4.3 million people visit the UK’s inland blue spaces to improve their mental and physical well-being. Pollution from sewage discharges, agricultural run-off and chemicals are putting the population at risk of getting sick, destroying delicate ecosystems and threatening ocean recovery.
It is estimated that nearly all Sewer Overflows in England and Wales discharge directly into rivers.
In 2019, this meant that untreated sewage was released into rivers and streams across the country for 1.5 million hours. Huge volumes of agricultural runoff also enter rivers, streams and lakes up and down the country, releasing toxic fertilizers and pesticides into precious water ecosystems. On top of that, it’s estimated that 1 million highway drains discharge water contaminated with hydrocarbons, metals and plastic directly into watercourses.
Yet, since only 3% of Bathing Waters in the UK are inland and only one Bathing Water is located on a river, there is no way of knowing the true effect this pollution scandal is having on people’s health, and so industry is getting away with it. This compares to 38% in France and 84% in Germany. Without Bathing Water status, there is no requirement for monitoring to assess the levels of harmful bacteria in the water, and no legal requirement to improve the quality of water for human health.
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