Bathing water quality

Why is water quality important?

‘Bathing water quality’ is a measure of how clean the water is at designated beaches, depending on the amount of bacteria in the water, that in turn indicate pollution levels that could make you unwell. These bacteria come from human or animal waste, which can enter the water in a number of different ways.

SEPA publishes daily water quality forecasts online, as well as on electronic signage at designated beaches. This is based on regular testing of water samples throughout the bathing season. You can find out more about the sampling process in the video below:

Where water quality is found to be affected, the Scottish Government and SEPA work with regulated operators and other stakeholders to identify contamination sources and carry out necessary improvement works.

However, the success of these measures also relies on people doing their part to keep the sand and sea clean.

One of the goals of 'My Beach, Your Beach' is to help stem some of the 'community' sources of bathing water contamination, from what people do on or near the beach to certain habits at home.


What you can do

Dog poo

Dog poo has been found to contaminate the bathing water when left near the beach. Finding dog poo on or even near the beach is enough to ruin the experience for anyone. For seven in ten people living in Scotland, it is the litter item which bothers them the most.

So, if you’re taking your dog onto the beach, make sure to bag and bin its poo.

Litter and gulls

Litter attracts gulls - as well as causing pollution and harming wildlife. A taste for human food can also lead gulls to get aggressive and cause a nuisance for beach users. And where there are gulls, gull poo has been identified as a source of bathing water contamination. This can all be avoided if gulls do not find food at the beach.

So, to protect the sand and sea at your favourite beach, don't feed the gulls and make sure not to leave litter behind, whether food related or otherwise.


When visiting the beach, best to adhere to the old motto:

Leave no trace - or better still, leave the site cleaner than you found it!

Mind your pipes

Not all bathing water contamination or marine litter comes straight from the beach. When waste waster pipes get blocked they cause floods and leak sewage water and debris into our waterways, coastal waters and beaches.This is a big problem that can often have simple solutions in our habits at home.

blockages are cleared from drains and sewers each year by Scottish Water.
of these are caused by people flushing the wrong items down the toilet, or pouring fats down the sink.
of all beach litter in the UK are items that have been flushed down the loo instead of going in the bin.

Dispose of fats, oils and greases in the bin, never down the drain.

Fats, oils and greases left over from cooking and frying congeal in pipes and can clog them up. When combined with other debris (see below) they turn into massive plugs called 'fatbergs' that must be cleared manually.

Fats, oils and greases should be diposed of in the bin. Small quantities can go in the compost bin, and larger quanitities should go to landfill, ideally in a sealed container.

Only flush the 3Ps - pee, poo and paper. Everything else can go in the bin.

Our sewage system is not intended or built to handle disposable items. More solid items like cotton buds, wet wipes, tampons and other sanitary products do not break down and cause blockages. They can then be carried to our beaches when they block pipes and cause flooding and sewage overflows.

There is no reason to flush these 'unflushables' down the toilet. Simply put them in the bin.

Keep the water cycle running

The short video below explains a bit more about the impact of 'unflushables' on the water cycle and our beaches. Scottish Water have some great learning reousrces around these topics. Head over to out activities & resources page to find more.

Activities and resources

Visit our activities and resources page to campaign, learn and take action

Keep Updated

Get our news delivered straight to your inbox
Your personal information and right to privacy is important to us. It is not our practice to sell, rent or otherwise to disclose your personal information to others. Read our Privacy Notice

Keep Connected

We support the