Wales bathing water quality report 2020

Executive Summary

Good quality bathing waters are very important for coastal communities, visitors and the economy in Wales. In 2020, all of the 105 designated Welsh bathing waters met the standards set by the Bathing Water Directive. Of the 105 bathing waters assessed in Wales, 84 were of an excellent standard, 14 achieved a good standard and 7 were classified as the minimum, sufficient, standard. For the third season running 0 were classified as poor.

The Bathing Water Directive introduces a classification system with stringent water quality standards and puts an emphasis on providing information to the public. Member States have to inform members of the public about bathing water management, bathing water quality, and potential threats to bathing water quality and public health. Waters are classified based on samples taken from the previous four years in order to even out effects of extreme situations.

One additional bathing Waters achieved an excellent classification in 2020 compared with the results in 2019. Met Office data shows that 2020 was a wet year compared to long-term average rainfall. A deterioration in water quality would normally be expected as rainfall washes pollution into watercourses from urban and rural agricultural areas and increases the operation of sewage overflows, designed to prevent sewage backing up into homes and businesses.

Achieving this overall improvement, during a wet year, reflects the actions that are being taken by Natural Resources Wales, together with Dŵr Cymru, Local Authorities, farming organisations and landowners to improve water quality. Improvements are being made locally, such as sewerage and outfall improvements; and more broadly, such as reducing diffuse water pollution from farmland in the wider countryside.

Natural Resources Wales is responsible for monitoring and reporting against the standards in the Directive. Samples are analysed for two types of bacteria, which indicate pollution from sewage or livestock. Polluted water can have impacts on human health, causing stomach upsets and diarrhoea if swallowed.

This report presents the results of the 2020 bathing water monitoring programme. Our challenge is to protect and enhance our natural resources and so maintain the high standards achieved this year at our bathing waters.

Bathing waters in Wales

Wales’ bathing waters are of great importance for the economy, for local communities and for tourism. A study commissioned by WWF Cymru in 2012, ‘Valuing Wales’ seas and coasts’ stated that “The coastal and marine environment is an incredible natural asset, contributing £6.8 billion to the economy of Wales and supporting more than 92,000 jobs.

Over 60 percent of the population of Wales live and work in the coastal zone, with all our major cities and many important towns located on the coast. The stunning and varied coastline around Wales also helps to explain the importance of the tourism industry, which contributes over £700 million each year to the Welsh economy.”

Several of Wales’ beaches such as Barafundle and Tenby, are regularly voted Britain’s best. Swimming, surfing, angling and rockpooling are popular activities all around the coastline. When the Wales Coastal Path opened in 2012, Lonely Planet named Wales’ coastline the top region to visit in the world.

The competitiveness of the Welsh tourism industry is dependent on the quality of tourist destinations, including the quality of bathing water. European water policy has played an important role in protecting water resources, and the quality of Welsh bathing sites is a good example of this.

The first European bathing water legislation, in the form of the Bathing Water Directive, came into force in 1976. The revised Bathing Water Directive was adopted in 2006, and 2015 was the first year it was fully implemented in the UK. Management and surveillance methods for bathing waters have been changed and new tighter microbiological standards brought in. More detail on the differences between the original and revised Bathing Water Directives can be found in the Wales Bathing Waters Report 2014.

Provision of information to the public is a key part of the directive. Profiles have to be prepared and published for all bathing waters and made freely available. These profiles describe the physical and hydrological conditions of bathing areas and analyse potential impacts on (and potential threats to) their water quality. The bathing water profiles are both a source of information for citizens and a management tool.

In Wales, Natural Resources Wales is responsible for monitoring bathing waters and communicating the results to the public. All information, including the profiles is communicated to the public via the Bathing Water Data Explorer.

The bathing season begins in May and lasts until the end of September. During the bathing season, Natural Resources Wales monitors bathing water quality and provides information about possible health risks arising from issues such as short-term pollution episodes. At the end of each year, Natural Resources Wales sends data on bathing water quality and information on management measures to the European Commission (EC) and the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Bathing water quality in 2020

In Wales, 105 designated bathing waters were sampled and classified during the 2020 bathing season.

All of the designated bathing waters met the minimum water quality standards:

  • 84 achieved the highest classification of excellent
  • 14 achieved good
  • 7 achieved sufficient

These results show that the overall water quality has remained fairly consistent compared with the classifications at the end of the 2019 season.

The Bathing Water Directive classifications in 2020 are based on two microbiological parameters: Escherichia coli (E. coli) and intestinal enterococci. They are calculated from four years of sample data (2017-2020). 

Non-compliant bathing waters

There were no non-compliant bathing waters during the 2020 season.

Monitoring and classification in 2020

Monitoring

In Wales the bathing season usually runs from 15 May to 30 September. Monitoring usually begins from 1 May as each bathing water has one pre-season sample taken. There may also be a pre-season inspection to identify any issue. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic the 2020 bathing water season was delayed with monitoring taking place between 22 June to 30 September (as per the The Bathing Water (Amendment) (Wales) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020). The pre-season sample was taken from 1 June. The number of samples taken at each bathing water was also reduced but continued to be in-line with the directive.

Throughout the bathing season, Natural Resources Wales collects water samples at designated bathing sites. The samples are analysed for two types of bacteria, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and intestinal enterococci.

Samples are taken according to a monitoring calendar set out in advance of the season. Each sample must be taken on the specified date or up to four days afterwards or the sampling opportunity is lost because samples taken outside that five day window do not count for the compliance dataset.

This calendar can be suspended if abnormal situations occur which could affect bathing water quality.

There were no Abnormal Situations during the 2020 season.

Classification

Classifications are based on four years’ worth of data. New or recently designated bathing waters may be classified on less than four years data, but with a minimum number of 16 samples. The Directive standards use two microbiological parameters, E. coli and intestinal enterococci, and are based on 95th and 90th percentile values.

Samples are classified according to four categories: excellent, good, sufficient and poor.

An objective was set in the Directive for all bathing waters to achieve sufficient status by 2015, which they did. The classifications will also be used in the periodic reviews of the bathing water profiles required by the Directive: 

  • every two years for poor bathing waters
  • every three years for sufficient
  • every four years for good

Short-term pollution, prediction and discounting

At some bathing waters short-term pollution may be predicted by models.
Beach operators then update a sign at the bathing water to warn the public on days that poor water quality is predicted. The prediction information is also shared online.

If the model has predicted poor quality, the public have been informed and a confirmation sample is taken to show if that pollution lasted less than 72 hours, then a scheduled bathing water sample taken that day may be discounted from the four year dataset.

This is possible up to a maximum of 15 percent of samples provided for in the monitoring calendars established for that period, or no more than one sample per bathing season, whichever is the greater.

The sample may, optionally, be replaced by a sample taken seven days after the end of the short-term pollution event. Bathing waters where short-term pollution has been predicted during the season can only be classified as sufficient, good or excellent quality if adequate management measures are being taken.

At the end of the 2020 season Welsh Government decided to discount and replace the following samples:

2020 Bathing Water

Discounted sample date

Replacement sample date

Swansea Bay

27/07/2020

04/08/2020

Swansea Bay

08/09/2020

16/09/2020

Aberdyfi

08/07/2020

17/07/2020

Rhyl

17/08/2020

N/A

Rhyl East

17/08/2020

N/A

Step change

Major changes at bathing waters such as sewerage infrastructure improvements may mean that data from before the changes are no longer representative of the current bathing water quality. Data from before such changes can be excluded from classification calculations under a provision commonly known as step change.

No bathing waters in Wales were affected by step change in the 2020 season.

Results of 2020 sampling and analysis of water quality at designated bathing water sites in Wales against the revised Bathing Water Directive

Bathing water

2020

2019 for comparison

Aberdaron

Excellent

Excellent

Aberdyfi

Excellent

Good

Aberdyfi Rural

Excellent

Excellent

Abereiddy

Excellent

Excellent

Aberffraw

Excellent

Excellent

Abermawr

Excellent

Excellent

Abersoch

Excellent

Excellent

Aberystwyth North

Excellent

Good

Aberystwyth South

Excellent

Good

Amroth Central

Excellent

Excellent

Barafundle

Excellent

Excellent

Barmouth

Excellent

Excellent

Benllech

Excellent

Excellent

Borth

Excellent

Excellent

Borth Wen

Excellent

Excellent

Bracelet Bay

Excellent

Excellent

Broad Haven (Central)

Excellent

Excellent

Broad Haven (South)

Excellent

Excellent

Caerfai

Excellent

Excellent

Castle Beach, Tenby

Excellent

Excellent

Caswell Bay

Excellent

Excellent

Church Bay

Excellent

Excellent

Cilborth

Excellent

Excellent

Cold Knap Barry

Excellent

Excellent

Colwyn Bay

Excellent

Excellent

Colwyn Bay Porth Eirias

Excellent

Excellent

Coppet Hall

Excellent

Excellent

Craig Du Beach Central

Excellent

Excellent

Dale

Excellent

Excellent

Druidston Haven

Excellent

Excellent

Dyffryn (Llanendwyn)

Excellent

Excellent

Fairbourne

Excellent

Excellent

Freshwater East

Excellent

Excellent

Freshwater West

Excellent

Excellent

Glan Don Beach

Excellent

Excellent

Harlech

Excellent

Excellent

Langland bay

Excellent

Excellent

Limeslade bay

Excellent

Excellent

Little haven

Excellent

Excellent

Llandanwg

Excellent

Excellent

Llanddona

Excellent

Excellent

Llanddwyn

Excellent

Excellent

Llandudno West Shore

Excellent

Excellent

Llanfairfechan

Excellent

Excellent

Llangrannog

Excellent

Excellent

Llanrhystud

Excellent

Excellent

Llyn Padarn

Excellent

Excellent

Lydstep

Excellent

Excellent

Manorbier

Excellent

Excellent

Marloes Sands

Excellent

Excellent

Morfa Dinlle

Excellent

Excellent

Morfa Nefyn

Excellent

Excellent

Mwnt

Excellent

Excellent

New Quay Harbour

Excellent

Excellent

Newgale

Excellent

Excellent

Oxwich Bay

Excellent

Excellent

Pembrey

Excellent

Excellent

Penally

Excellent

Excellent

Pendine

Excellent

Excellent

Poppit West

Excellent

Excellent

Port Eynon Bay

Excellent

Excellent

Porth Dafarch

Excellent

Excellent

Porth Neigwl

Excellent

Excellent

Prestatyn

Excellent

Excellent

Pwllheli

Excellent

Excellent

Rest Bay Porthcawl

Excellent

Excellent

Rhosneigr

Excellent

Excellent

Rhossili

Excellent

Excellent

Sandy Bay Porthcawl

Excellent

Excellent

Sandy Haven

Excellent

Good

Saundersfoot

Excellent

Excellent

Silver Bay Rhoscolyn

Excellent

Excellent

Southerndown

Excellent

Excellent

St Davids - Benllech

Excellent

Excellent

Tal-y-Bont

Excellent

Excellent

Tenby North

Excellent

Excellent

Tenby South

Excellent

Excellent

Traeth Lligwy

Excellent

Excellent

Trearddur Bay

Excellent

Excellent

Trecco Bay Porthcawl

Excellent

Excellent

Tresaith

Excellent

Excellent

West angle

Excellent

Excellent

Whitesands

Excellent

Excellent

Wiseman's Bridge

Excellent

Excellent

Cemaes

Good

Sufficient

Clarach South

Good

Good

Criccieth

Good

Good

New Quay North

Good

Good

Newport North

Good

Good

Nolton Haven

Good

Good

Penbryn

Good

Excellent

Penmaenmawr

Good

Excellent

Rhyl

Good

Sufficient

Rhyl East

Good

Good

Swansea Bay

Good

Good

Traeth Gwyn New Quay

Good

Good

Tywyn

Good

Good

Whitmore Bay Barry Island

Good

Excellent

Aberafan

Sufficient

Good

Abergele (Pensarn)

Sufficient

Sufficient

Aberporth

Sufficient

Good

Jackson's Bay Barry Island

Sufficient

Good

Kinmel Bay (Sandy Cove)

Sufficient

Good

Llandudno North Shore

Sufficient

Sufficient

Marine Lake, Rhyl

Sufficient

Sufficient

Parameters used for classification of coastal waters and transitional waters (such as estuarine bathing waters) under the revised bathing water directive

Parameters measured are E. coli and IE (intestinal enterococci). Percentiles are values that should theoretically be complied with 90 or 95 percent of the time (based on the distribution of the data). They do not refer to values complied with 90 or 95 percent of samples.

Excellent

250 E. coli 95th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

100 IE 95th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

Good

500 E. coli 95th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

200 IE 95th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

Sufficient

500 E.coli 90th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

185 IE 90th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

Poor

Fails to meet any of the above standards.

Not classified

Does not have enough samples in the four year calculation window.

Parameters used for classification of inland waters under the revised bathing water directive

Parameters measured are E. coli and IE (intestinal enterococci). Percentiles are values that should theoretically be complied with 90 or 95 percent of the time (based on the distribution of the data). They do not refer to values complied with 90 or 95 percent of samples.

Excellent

500 E. coli 95th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

200 IE 95th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

Good

1000 E. coli 95th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

400 IE 95th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

Sufficient

900 E. coli 90th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

330 IE 90th percentile (Colony forming units/100ml)

Poor

Fails to meet any of the above standards.

Not classified

Does not have enough samples in the four year calculation window.

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