CLEAN BATHING BEACHES QUADRUPLE IN TEN YEARS

But rising trend may be threatened by climate change

 
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) today (18th May, 2007) marks the
twentieth anniversary of its Good Beach Guide by recommending 494 (63%) of
Britain's beaches for excellent bathing water quality, out of 787
tested. The Society also reports the number of MCS Recommended beaches has
almost quadrupled in the last ten years – up from 125 in 1997. The
Good Beach Guide 2007 - the only independent, comprehensive guide to
bathing water quality in the
UK - is published online at www.goodbeachguide.co.uk.

Today's figures stand as testament to the influence exerted
by the Good Beach Guide on the water industry,
since 1987, to clean up its act and properly treat sewage disposal to the sea. But MCS believes that the number of beaches
reaching its stringent water quality standard may have peaked because storm
related pollution, driven by climate change, is now a serious threat to coastal
waters.

Thomas Bell, MCS Coastal Pollution Officer,
said: “MCS is delighted to recommend over 60% of
UK beaches this year on the basis of excellent
water quality. This is great news for the thousands of holidaymakers heading to
the British coast this summer. We're also delighted to report that the number
of beaches achieving our tough water quality standard is four times higher than
ten years ago.
Britain's beaches used to be awash with sewage, and the Good Beach Guide drew a
line in the sand twenty years ago for what was acceptable. Today we're enjoying
the benefits of
that
campaign.”

But three of the last four British summers have been exceptionally dry,
and low rainfall boosts bathing water quality because of a lack of storm
related pollution. During this period, the number of MCS Recommended beaches
has peaked at around 500. Climate change is forecast to bring warmer, wetter
winters, and summers punctuated by violent storms and flash floods. This change
will substantially increase the pollution pressures along our coast, acting
against future improvements in bathing water quality.

Thomas Bell continued: “Heavy rain
translates into poor water quality because waterborne pollutants such as raw
sewage, petro-chemicals and farm waste by-pass the sewer system and sweep
directly from the land into rivers and the sea. This effect was particularly
apparent across the
UK during summer 2004 and throughout last
winter. It's a serious problem that we
believe
will worsen in years to come.”

MCS acknowledges the Government's efforts to address storm
related pollution, including a current review of water management strategy and
implementation of the new European Bathing Waters Directive. However, the
Society believes that specific counter pollution measures must be initiated
now, including new investment in sustainable urban drainage systems, a
significant expansion of the sewer system to handle large volumes of storm
water, and the rapid improvement of an estimated 2,000 failing combined sewer
overflows.

The 20th edition of the Good Beach Guide is
published in support of the MCS Campaign for
Clean Seas, and is available online at www.goodbeachguide.co.uk from Friday 18th May.
Production of the guide is supported by The Crown Estate and the Royal National
Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Dr Carolyn Heeps, Head of Offshore & Environment for The
Crown Estate, said "The Crown Estate is delighted with the continued
success of the Good Beach Guide in raising awareness of bathing water quality
in the
UK.  The Guide has
become an important resource for millions of visitors wanting to visit one of
the
UK's fabulous beaches."

MCS is working with the RNLI to promote the summer launch of
their Beachwise national beach safety initiative, on Thursday 24th
May. Beachwise will encourage the public to always swim at lifeguarded
beaches. The locations of lifeguarded beaches are available at
www.goodbeachguide.co.uk. Check www.rnli.org.uk/beachsafety for RNLI beach
safety information. 

‘MCS Recommended' is one of
five
UK beach awards, but is the only scheme that focuses entirely on water
quality standards and the risk of sewage pollution. MCS will only recommend
beaches in the Good Beach Guide if they meet the Guideline European water
quality standard and are not affected by inadequately treated continuous sewage
discharge.