Wales’ coastlines continue to meet the most stringent water quality standards
Beaches across Wales have achieved 100% compliance with high quality bathing water standards for the fourth consecutive year.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have reported that of the 105 bathing waters sampled on the beaches of Wales, 85 achieved the highest classification of ‘excellent’, 14 were classed as ‘good’ and six deemed ‘sufficient’ ensuring that Wales’ coastlines continue to meet some of the most stringent water quality standards in Europe.
A classification of excellent water quality is one of the main requirements for applying for a Blue Flag award, and during 2021 each one was tested at least 8 times; immediately before and throughout the season from May to September.
The results are used to assess compliance with standards set down by the Bathing Water Directive. In 2015 stricter standards were implemented in Wales, requiring designated bathing waters to reach even tougher water quality targets.
One of the biggest success stories coming out of this year’s results is Cemaes Bay in the Isle of Anglesey. In 2017, water quality at Cemaes was classified as ‘poor’.
Following a significant joint effort between the Council, Natural Resources Wales and the local community to improve bathing water quality, Cemaes Bay has seen year-on-year improvements and this year has reached the highest bathing water quality standard of ‘excellent’.
Derek Owen, Chair of Llanbadrig Community Council, has been heavily involved in the work to improve bathing quality at Cemaes.
He said: “This improvement in bathing water quality is excellent news for the local economy as well as the obvious public health benefits of having a high quality environment.
“Coastal communities like ours rely heavily on tourism, and people come here to enjoy clean beaches and good bathing water. So, this year’s rating of excellent will be very much welcomed by local businesses and people who live in Cemaes and the surrounding area.”
Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said: “I am delighted that for the fourth consecutive year Wales, which is internationally known for its stunning coastlines, continues to have some of the best bathing waters in Europe.
“I am extremely grateful to all those who have helped us achieve this continued success, in particular Natural Resources Wales, who, despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic have continued to deliver their testing programme to help maintain the highest of standards in our waters.”
Vaughan Gething, Minister for Economy said: “We know that many people decided to stay in Wales for their holidays this year – and as a result discovered what our amazing coastline has to offer. These results are an excellent sign of confidence in the quality of our bathing water, and in the team effort made by communities, regulators and other partners to safeguard our natural assets.”
The Welsh Government says it will be looking to replicate this level of success when it starts to designate more inland waters, for example lakes and rivers, as bathing waters in Wales.
Recent debate and public backlash surrounding the discharge of sewage into rivers shows that this may be a long way off.
Conservative MPs, including 10 in Welsh constituencies, had voted against an amendment to the Environment Bill that would have forced water companies to reduce their discharge of effluent into rivers and seas.
A Senedd Committee called on the Welsh Government to ensure that Wales’ waterways are protected from sewage discharge after a law was passed in Westminster.
The Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee wrote a letter to Julie James MS to clarify a number of issues surrounding the current rules governing the release of sewage into Welsh rivers and seas by water companies in Wales.
The ‘Environment Act 2021’ introduces a range of new measures that aim to reduce the harmful impact of sewage on rivers and coastal areas in England.