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Scotland's bathing waters show marked improvement

13 December 2021

This season's bathing water classificiations were today published by SEPA, showing 99% of Scotland's 85 bathing waters passed environmental water quality standards and nearly 40% achieved an 'excellent' status.

Scotland’s bathing water quality is now the best it has been since 2015 when tighter standards first came into force, with almost all sites now classified as sufficient or better for next season.

The improvements are down to a combination of measures, specific to each site, but including significant investment in planned pollution control and sewage treatment measures, in collaboration with Scottish Water and local authorities, as well as working with farmers, land managers and the National Farmer's Union to reduce pollution from agricultural run-off.

Our My Beach Your Beach campaign has been supporting this work at a number of Scottish beaches, including Ayr, Troon, Irvine and Slatcoats/Ardrossan on the west coast, all of which showed improvements this summer; as well as Kinghorn, Portobello and Fisherrow Sands on the east coast. It does this by raising awawreness and encouraging people to care for beaches and bathing waters and reduce pollution from dogs, gulls and litter.

Season results are normally based on a four-year rolling average of annual measurements, however, where improvement is significant enough to be sustainable in the future, a “step-change” classification can apply, based on just the one season’s samples. Such improvements were marked at two bathing waters this year, including My Beach Your Beach campaign site Ayr (South Beach), where we have been working to support bathing water quality improvements since 2018.

Barry Fisher, CEO of Keep Scotland Beautiful said:

“This summer the successful My Beach Your Beach campaign recorded a 16% increase in visitors to the beach checking bathing water quality, showing increased awareness of the issue. This is really positive at a site where real time information is available.  Since 2018,  when we launched the campaign, we have worked with local communities, in particular Don’t Trash Ayr, businesses and the local authority and have seen increased stewardship of the beach. Locals and visitors have become more aware of the actions that that can take to protect the sand and sea - including binning litter or taking it home, ensuring dog poo is picked up and removed, and not feeding the gulls.  We’d encourage everyone to heed this advice not just in the summer, but at all times of the year.”


Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said:

“Improving Scotland’s water environment is a key priority for SEPA, and that includes the bathing waters so many of us enjoy. Across Scotland, we work to protect watercourses through licensing, inspection and regulation of discharges, and pollution incident response. In addition, we provide advice and guidance to the public, industry, developers, and local authorities.

“The successes at Ayr (South Beach) and Rockcliffe demonstrate the bold and timely action that can come from partnership working. We’ll continue to work with our partners to raise or maintain the state of bathing waters throughout Scotland, with particular attention on Dhoon Bay in 2022.”


Minister for Environment and Land Reform Mairi McAllan said:

“Scotland's bathing waters are so important to our environment and to people's health and well-being and it is great to see hard work and investment delivering results.

“This is great news for the people of Ayr and the thousands of people who visit its shores every year. Ayr beach is one of Scotland’s most popular visitor areas, with a long tradition of welcoming people from far and wide to enjoy its coastline. By investing in improving Ayr's bathing waters along with others across Scotland, we have made sure many more people can continue to enjoy them and will potentially bring a boost to the local tourism economy."



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