Improved water quality in the pipeline

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For years now, water companies have been using combined sewer overflow (CSO's) pipes to discharge untreated sewage into the sea during periods of heavy rain and flooding to relieve pressure on the Victorian sewage system we all still rely on.

BBC Panorama highlighted the issue of CSO's around our coast back in September 2009 and 12 UK water companies responded saying they have a total of 20,233 CSOs between them in England and Wales.

These CSO's can be discharged at any time with no warning - something Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) have been campaigning against for a long time.

Things now look set to improve as the Environment Agency launches new beach profiles as well as a bathing water map to check water quality.

These beach profiles will highlight what forms of pollution each beach suffers from and identifies the sewage discharge points and locations of combined sewage overflows.

A new warning system will involve swimmers signing up for a free text message service that notifies them of overflows.

Details will also be published on websites run by Surfers Against Sewage and Welsh Water and red flags will be displayed on beaches for 24 hours with notices posted up at beach entrances.

The Marine Conservation Society advises bathers not to swim for at least 24 hours after very heavy rainfall.

Welsh Water is among the first three water companies to use the system and beaches at Broad Haven, Newgale and Manorbier in Pembrokeshire will be the first in Wales to adopt the new warning procedure.

SAS Campaign director, Andy Cummins said: "'We've been working with Pembrokeshire council, Welsh Water and the Environment Agency Wales, and the conversations have been extremely positive."

"The water companies have no duty to take part in this scheme so Welsh Water should be praised for its brilliant attitude."

A revised Bathing Water Directive will come into force in 2015 which aims to set more stringent water quality standards and also puts a stronger emphasis on beach management and public information.

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