Scotland’s new bathing water season began on 1 June 2017 with the good news that 87% of Scotland’s bathing waters have achieved strict European water quality standards.

The final classifications, now issued by the EU, show that out of the 84 officially designated bathing waters in Scotland in 2016:

• 26 have been rated as ‘excellent’ (up from 17 previous season)

• 36 are classed as ‘good’

• 11 have achieved the ‘sufficient’ standard

• 11 have been rated as ‘poor’ (down from 17 previous season)

Overall water quality has improved again for the start of the new bathing water season, with nine additional bathing waters meeting the much tighter excellent water quality standards. The new classifications will be displayed by SEPA and Local Authorities across Scotland’s beaches until mid-September. Tailored improvement plans, prepared by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) reflecting collaboration with its partners, are ongoing at each of the bathing waters rated as ‘poor’ to raise all designated bathing waters across Scotland to the new standards by 2020.

Gairloch Beach and Sand Beach, in the north west of Scotland, have been designated by Scottish Government for the first time and this summer SEPA will be monitoring water quality at these sites. Official bathing water designation enables action to be taken to ensure the bathing water meets the standards to protect public health.

Monifieth will join the network of bathing waters which have electronic signs this year, providing daily real-time water quality information. This real-time water quality information, now available across a total of 29 locations, is also available via SEPA’s website, smartphone app and Beachline number.

Calum McPhail, from SEPA’s Environmental Quality Unit, said:

“Today marks the start of the third bathing water season under the stricter water quality standards of the Bathing Water Directive, and it is good to see that there has been a reduction in the number of bathing waters classified as poor, and a general improvement across the other classifications.

While this is great progress, we understand that some local communities will be disappointed, as we are, that there are 11 bathing waters which have been rated as having a ‘poor’ EU classification.It is important to remember that a ‘poor’ classification does not necessarily mean that water quality is continually poor.

These are still fantastic beaches to visit, and we are working with the Scottish Government and our key partner organisations to help all of Scotland’s bathing waters to avoid ‘poor’ classifications.To help with this, we have formed five new stakeholder partnership groups around Scotland which are focused on working together across organisations and local communities to ensure that we all coordinate actions and identify activities to solve problems or address factors which may contribute to causes of poor water quality at key locations.

Our challenge now is to continue to build upon the progress made over the years and bring all of Scotland’s bathing waters up to, at least, the ‘sufficient’ standard through further investment and infrastructure improvements, along with managing pressures from rural and diffuse pollution and by engaging with communities.We hope lots of people will take the opportunity to enjoy Scotland’s bathing waters this summer.

Our network of electronic information signs are now available at a total of 29 locations across Scotland to help even more people make informed decisions about whether to use bathing waters than ever before.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“This is great news for Scotland’s seaside resorts and comes as many of us look forward to summer visits to our beautiful beaches.

This shows the hard work of local authorities, communities, SEPA and the Scottish Government is achieving results.

This kind of partnership working is important as many local economies depend on beach tourism.I would encourage people to stay safe and take a look at the online guidance so they can get the most out of Scotland’s bathing waters.”

The data behind the new classifications can be accessed and visualised using the bathing waters data explorer tool on Scotland’s Environment Web.