Clean waters are important for safe recreational bathing and watersports. Access to clean bathing waters provide restorative physical and psychological benefits to users and positive impacts for local businesses through increased trade.
A bathing beach is a designated area of a natural or artificially constructed pond, lake, stream, river, bay, tidal waters, ocean or other body of fresh or salt water, which is used for bathing and swimming purposes.
The safety and quality of bathing waters can be reduced by the presence of harmful bacteria. Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci can cause illness if ingested, and they are used as indicators of faecal pollution from humans, livestock and wildlife. Poor livestock waste management and raw sewage discharge into water bodies contributes to the presence of these bacteria in bathing waters. EU Bathing Water Directive reports collates data on the conditions of UK bathing water sites, classifying each across four categories from excellent to poor, including on the presence of Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci.
The Solent Bathing Water Quality Award Scheme, administered by the Solent Forum on behalf of the Solent Water Quality Group, provides a simple and readily understood indicator of satisfactory water quality at bathing beaches. It is based on long term water quality monitoring over the previous summer, and is based on a minimum of 16 samples. All beaches regularly used for bathing (private or Local Authority managed), non-designated as well as designated, can apply for an award under the scheme.
Our Solent Pastics Pollution hub provides comprehensive information on beach cleaning and litter picking with links to resources and local community groups. Its associated Facebook page gives details of events and the latest news in its post.
Southern Water's beachbuoy gives near real-time information about releases of stormwater or wastewater near outfalls. On its interactive, online map you can see updates about releases from combined sewer overflows.
The Rivers Trust has a map which shows where the sewage network discharges treated effluent and overflows of untreated effluent and storm water into rivers. Access at: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/e834e261b53740eba2fe6736e37bbc7b/.
Water quality at designated bathing water sites in England is assessed by the Environment Agency. From May to September, weekly assessments measure current water quality, and at a number of sites daily pollution risk forecasts are issued. Annual ratings classify each site as excellent, good, sufficient or poor based on measurements taken over a period of up to four years (see data below).
The Solent Protection Society has been working with the Southern Water Sandown Pathfinder Project to install free water butts to houses. This has reduced the need for sewage outfalls to flow at Gurnard on the Isle of Wight significantly. They also monitored sewage discharges across the Solent in 2020.