40% rise in beach water quality in Wales over 10 years

Wild swimming Image copyright Gone Swimming

The number of beaches in Wales where the water quality is high has increased by 40% in the last 10 years, figures have revealed.

There are now 97 bathing areas classified as "excellent" and "good", compared to 69 in 2006.

The Bathing Waters in Wales statistics for 2016 showed these include places like Trecco Bay in Porthcawl, Gower's Oxwich Bay and Colwyn Bay, Conwy.

Natural Resources Wales said Welsh beaches are among "the best in Europe".

Over the past 10 years, the total number of designated bathing areas has increased by 32%, rising from 78 to 103.

And the standards are also said to be tougher, following the introduction of the revised Bathing Water Directive in 2015.

So what is behind the significant improvements in Wales' water quality?

Rachelle Trubey, water advisor at NRW, said it has been down to "numerous factors" including upgrading sewerage works, fixing misconnections in pipes and reducing contamination runoff from urban areas and farmland by, for instance, putting up fences near river banks.

Llandudno West, Conwy county borough

Image copyright Natural Resources Wales

The water quality here has risen from "poor" in 2012 to "excellent" since 2014.

It follows joint work between NRW, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and the council to make improvements.

Gabby Dickinson of Gone Swimming, which holds wild swimming sessions across north Wales, said it was important that the sea is kept clean for swimmers.

"The water in Wales is beautiful. You can be out swimming and see dogfish, crabs, even seals who swim really near to us. They wouldn't be there if the water was dirty because there wouldn't be the fish to feed on," she said.

"Without the really good cleanliness and quality of the water, we would not be out there either.

"People are more aware of where their rubbish ends up, and the less pollution there is then it certainly helps more people get into the sea."

Image copyright Gone Swimming

Gone Swimming also holds "rubbish swimming" sessions where they clear up any waste on the beach after finishing their swim.

"We take away the things we've brought with us as well as litter lying around. It gives our swimmers a sense of ownership and means we're doing our bit for the environment," she added.

Jon Merrick, business and tourism manager for Conwy council, said: "For people to know that the beaches are safe and clean, it certainly makes it more attractive to visitors.

"We have definitely noticed that visitors are increasing and it's bringing family holidays back to the area."

Bathing waters in Wales 2016


areas meet the European standard of sufficient or above


are rated "excellent"

  • 12 times each bathing area has its water tested each year

  • £1bn invested by Welsh Water in sewerage improvements since 2001

  • £540m additional investment for further upgrades between 2015-2020

Robin Lucas/Geograph

Only one place in Wales has been rated "poor" - Cemaes on Anglesey.

Ms Trubey said NRW was disappointed with the result but work was being carried out to "bring it back up to the required standard".

Anglesey council said it has made" substantial investment in the harbour area in recent years" with EU funding and added: "We'll continue to assist Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Water to resolve this matter and improve bathing water quality standards at Cemaes."

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