If you’ve been looking forward to some sea bathing or wild swimming in British waters this summer, it may be time to reconsider.
The UK’s bathing water quality is among the worst on the continent, with only 110 coastal and inland waters rated excellent in the latest data from the European environmental watchdog.
The UK ranked last out of 31 countries, despite Covid-19 restrictions last year hampering sampling in the UK and resulting in most of the country’s bathing spots being unclassified.
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Only 17 percent of UK bathing spots were rated as excellent quality compared to 22 percent in Poland. For the other 29 countries it was at least 50 percent and for 24 nations 70 percent. However, Covid-19 restrictions hampered sampling in the UK last year
The lack of data led the UK to endorse the European Environment Agency (EEA) annual ranking with only Poland as a close partner.
Only 17 percent of UK bathing spots were rated as excellent quality compared to 22 percent in Poland. For the other 29 countries it was at least 50 percent and for 24 nations 70 percent.
Of the 640 monitored bathing areas in Great Britain, 457 received no judgment in the 2020 ranking because they could not be sampled.
That said, 12 sites in the UK were found to be poor quality, 29 adequate and 32 good.
WHERE CAN I NOT SWIM IN ENGLAND?
The Environment Agency advises against swimming in:
- Burnham Jetty North and Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
- Combe Martn, Ilfracombe Wildersmouth and Instow, near Exmoor National Park
- Clacton Groyne 41, Essex
- Scarborough South Bay, North Yorkshire
- Tynemouth Cullercoats, near Newcastle
- Wherrytown, West Cornwall
The ranking included the EU member states as well as Albania and Switzerland.
First up is Cyprus, which has rated all of its seaside resorts as excellent, while Greece, Austria, Croatia and Malta also find 95 percent or more in this category.
In 2019, 66 percent of websites in the UK achieved excellent standards, finishing sixth from the bottom of the 31 country rankings.
A government spokesman said: “The quality of bathing water in England has improved significantly over the past 20 years.
“The latest data from 2019 shows that 72 percent achieved the highest standard of excellent, while 98.3 percent met the minimum standard.
“Visitors to coastal and inland bathing areas have over 400 bathing waters to choose from and can find out more on the” Swimfo “website of the environmental authority.”
Water quality tests on coastal waters and lakes in England have been suspended for much of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EA) said it could no longer perform the checks because of the social distancing restrictions.
The sample collection is used to test for bacteria, including E. coli, which can cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and diarrhea.
The EA is currently obliged to carry out health and safety reviews under EU law and generally collects data from May to September.
Swimming in the Sea: Families paddle in the tidal pool at Margate in Kent today, while people continue to go to the beach in warm weather
Almost all, 98.3 percent of UK waters, met the minimum standard for bathing in England in 2019.
The EA currently has warnings in place on nine beaches advising Brits against swimming due to the pollution.
The 2020 bathing water data will be the last to include the UK. EU member states as well as non-members Iceland, Switzerland and Turkey are included in the EEA, but the UK opted out of such membership after Brexit.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, said: “Bathing water quality in Europe remains high and it is good news for Europeans who will be visiting beaches and bathing places this summer.”
A Water UK spokesperson said: “Water companies are proud of their bathing water records, which have made great strides over the past 20 years.
“In 2019, when data was last available, a record 93 percent of English bathing waters were rated either good or excellent.
“The UK’s artificial placement in this table reflects the lack of data from 70 percent of the sites due to Covid restrictions, rather than actual performance.”