Click before you dip
17 May 2012
An online tool is ensuring that water quality information is at the fingertips of people visiting beaches in the west.
Our bathing water quality website has been launched for a second year running providing real-time information about the quality and cleanliness of the 348 miles (560km) of coastline in our region.
It went live in time for the new 2012 bathing season, which started on Tuesday 15 May, and allows people to check beaches in Dorset, Somerset and North Somerset.
Last year was the best year for water quality in the region with 89 per cent of beaches achieving a ‘tighter’ Bathing Water Directive standard and 100 per cent passing the mandatory standard.
Our online water quality service, which was the first of its kind in the industry, provides information for designated bathing waters in its region, alongside individual bathing water classifications from Defra.
Ruth Barden, our head of environment and conservation, said: “Our region has among the cleanest beaches in the country and improving sewage treatment processes and upgrading infrastructure has ensured that water quality continues to meet the expectations of people, environmentalists and holiday makers.”
During intense rainfall, occasionally emergency and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are operated which prevent heavily diluted foul water from flooding highways, properties and open spaces.
As well as storm implications, a range of other factors can affect the cleanliness of beaches and bathing waters including agricultural and urban run-off.
Ruth said: “We feel it is very important to ensure that should a CSO have been operated, people can see for themselves whether it had a potential implication of water quality.”
During the past year we have invested in telemetry equipment that notifies us when an emergency overflow has operated.
Information, which is sent through a mobile phone signal, is used to indicate whether water quality has been affected over 24 hour and seven day periods.
“Eliminating the use of sewer overflows is not possible as it would mean reconfiguring the country’s sewerage system that has been in use since the 19th century,” said Mrs Barden.
“Instead we are continuing to update our existing systems with major investments, ensuring they have adequate capacity and provide extra storm storage to reduce the number of CSO ‘spills’ every year.”
More than 4,000 people used the service in 2011 and we expect there to be further interest this year as the trend for ‘staycation’ holidays in the UK continues.
Ruth added: “Our online facility is now more interactive, and visitors can specify which information they want to see displayed such as when and how often a CSO has been operated to how much investment has been made in the area.”
We work closely with the Environment Agency, local tourism councils and other organisations to ensure that bathing water meets the standard of quality that people expect when visiting beaches.
Visitors to beaches in Dorset, Somerset and North Somerset can find out about bathing water quality by visiting our bathing water quality pages.