The last 25 years has seen a dramatic improvement in coastal water quality thanks to strong EU legislation and committed campaigning from SAS and other environmental organisations. In 2016, 98.5% of England’s bathing waters passed the EU Bathing Water Directive’s standards, compared to only 27% achieving this standard in 1990, when SAS was launched in the face of the woeful water quality.
Widespread ‘Excellent’ water quality results last year pointed to the success of Surfers Against Sewage campaigns over the past decade, calling for cleaner bathing waters through an enhanced and improved Bathing Water Directive designed to better protect surfers, beachgoers and recreational water users. These higher standards mean that the 625 designated bathing waters around the UK are now scrutinised weekly on improved bacterial levels during the bathing season for the benefit of surfers, swimmers and holidaymakers alike. The Sewage Free Seas campaign also highlighted the need and mechanism to monitor and investigate any residual water quality impacts from the emergency sewer overflow system.
Surfers Against Sewage has been at the forefront of real-time water quality information provision since 2008, which coupled with the EU Bathing Water Directive testing programme, now provides some of the strongest public health protection for water users in the world. As part of our commitment to providing the best possible water quality protection and information, Surfers Against Sewage also continues to promote sophisticated real-time water quality alerts through the Safer Seas Service to safeguard water users from reductions in water quality between weekly Environment Agency tests, driven by rainfall, sewer overflow discharges and diffuse pollution from farm and urban environments. The Safer Seas Service provides free real-time water quality information for 330 beaches across England and Wales. Our vision is to provide real-time and predictive water quality information for all beaches in the UK.
Surfers Against Sewage is calling for more ongoing action to protect and improve our bathing waters including:
- 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.
- An extension to the bathing season, when our water quality is tested and best protected.
- Safeguarding & improving the Bathing Water Directive post Brexit, ensuring bathing water quality continues to be tested at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place to protect all water users.
- 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.
Water quality priority projects: The Safer Seas Service, Human Health & Wellbeing, Cleaner Coastal Catchments.