Water Quality

Clean, safe and protected beaches for everyone to enjoy are at the heart of what we do.

Water Quality

When we surf, swim or play in sea water that has raw sewage in it we are at risk of: gastroenteritis, ear, nose and throat infections, skin infections, and even hepatitis and e-coli.

Many of these illnesses were commonplace amongst surfers up and down the country in the 1980s and we were literally sick of it. So in 1990, we formed SAS to campaign for change…

We cleaned up!

We collated evidence on the effects of mixing with raw sewage, put pressure on water companies to improve sewerage infrastructure and pushed decision makers for stronger legislation to protect water users.  This resulted in an epic £5 billion investment by water companies dramatically changing the lives of surfers, swimmers and holidaymakers alike.

After decades of campaigning on the improvement of water quality, we were delighted with last years’ announcement that a fantastic 98.5% of the 625 designated bathing waters around the UK are now classified as excellent, good, or sufficient.  This is a huge leap forward from when we started in 1990, when just 27% of bathing waters could meet the same standards.

More about SAS history

Ocean swimmer

But, there’s still more to be done

The majority of legislation ensuring bathing waters are kept clean comes from the EU, so we will keep up the pressure so that post-Brexit, the standards continue to be improved.  We also want to see the bathing season extended.

Warning Sign at beach

Currently water quality is only required to be tested during the official bathing season; from May until September which means there is no official sampling on water quality for the rest of the year.



of the 636 designated bathing waters around the UK are now classified as excellent, good, or sufficient.

Compared to only


when we started in 1990.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs)

The sewage system in the UK can only process so much.  After heavy rain or a sharp increase in use, such as when coastal populations swell over the summer, sewerage infrastructure can become overrun.  When it does so, the treatment plants cannot process all that is coming through, so they get bypassed and the raw effluent is sometimes released via CSOs.

Using an overflow removes the chance that sewer contents back up into homes. This sewage has to go somewhere, so is discharged into the environment, often water courses, carrying waste towards the ocean. CSOs are regulated and operate under licence, however action is retrospective and does not protect water users in real-time.

Safer Seas Service

Get live updates on pollution incidents at your local or favourite beach.

Safer Seas Service

In response to the problem of CSOs, we created the UK’s first real-time water quality information app. The Safer Seas Service monitors 330 beaches across England & Wales to help protect you, your friends and family from the risks of mixing with raw sewage and diffuse pollution.

It’s a free service and you can sign up to your favourite beaches anywhere in England & Wales and you will be sent notifications of any pollution incidents; when CSOs are discharging or diffuse pollution (like farm run off) is affecting water quality, meaning you can make an informed decision about whether you want to go in the water on that day.

The Safer Seas Service monitors 330 beaches across England & Wales.

What we want to do next

We want to continue to improve the Safer Seas Service so we can provide information on all beaches in the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland! We also want all water companies to commit to providing data to the service year round, rather than just in the official bathing season.


Children jumping into a river

We’re also going to keep up the pressure on water companies to remove the need for CSOs with bathing waters, recreational waters and sites of special surfing interest awarded priority, ensuring you are kept safe and protected when you and your family go in the sea.

We need your help

We’re a small charity, but we pack a big punch.  We need your help spreading the word.  The more people know about it, the more people are likely to become members and the more members we have on board the more money we have to spend on protecting beaches for everyone to enjoy, including the birds, seals, fish and dolphins.

So please do join our enewsletter, become a member, make a donation or give us a follow on social media.