The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) expects that 72 of the 84 designated bathing waters across Scotland will meet the European water quality standards when confirmed classifications are issued by the EU in spring 2017.
For South Ayrshire the expected classifications include ‘good’ ratings for Culzean and Maidens beaches with Girvan beach expected to have a ‘sufficient’ rating.
Ayr South Beach and Heads of Ayr are expected to have a ‘poor’ rating.
SEPA say better bathing water quality has been seen across Scotland this year. The number of bathing waters predicted to achieve the highest ‘excellent’ classification has increased by 53% since last season. In addition to this, overall five more bathing waters are expected to meet the EU water quality class standards than last season.
Tailored improvement plans, prepared by SEPA reflecting collaboration with its partners, are underway at bathing waters with a ‘poor’ classification to help all designated bathing waters across Scotland meet the required standards by 2020.
This is the second bathing water season under the much stricter water quality standards of the new Bathing Water Directive.
Classifications are calculated based on four years of monitoring data, and take the overall number of bacteria into account over this period, to give a more consistent picture of water quality condition when assigning the status of a bathing water area.
As well as tighter water quality standards, the Directive puts an emphasis on information provision for beach users and bathers. During this summer SEPA extended its daily signage network to six additional key beach locations including Heads of Ayr.
Calum McPhail, from SEPA’s Environmental Quality Unit, said: “Following the end of the 2016 bathing water season in Scotland it is good to see that an initial analysis of the classifications for 2017 shows a reduction in the number of bathing waters classified as poor, and a general improvement across the other classifications.
“We understand that some local communities will be disappointed, as we are, that there are twelve bathing waters which are expected to be rated as having a ‘poor’ EU classification.
“We would like to remind the public that a ‘poor’ classification does not necessarily mean that water quality is continually poor, and that these are still fantastic beaches to visit.
“Since SEPA’s regulation and monitoring of EU bathing waters began in 1988, Scottish bathing waters have been increasing in number and improving in quality.
“Our challenge now is to build upon this progress 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.”
“This has been a relatively dry summer for many with lots of people taking the opportunity to enjoy Scotland’s bathing waters. We are pleased to have extended our network of electronic information signs, providing advice and details about any current water quality issues, to more locations this year to help even more people make informed decisions about whether to use bathing waters than ever before.
“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government and our key partner organisations to build on what has been achieved so far and to help all of Scotland’s bathing waters to avoid ‘poor’ classifications.”
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, said: “It is extremely encouraging to see an increase in the number of bathing waters classified as ‘excellent’ and a drop in those classified as ‘poor’. We must build on this progress, working toward all of Scotland’s bathing waters achieving the ‘sufficient’ standard or better.
“Bathing water improvement plans are underway and SEPA, Scottish Water, land managers and local community groups have been working together to improve water quality. We will continue to collaborate on improvements and I would encourage local communities to get involved with this important work, which is at the heart of beach tourism and the economies it supports.”
The final confirmed classifications will be displayed by SEPA and Local Authorities across Scotland’s beaches for next year’s bathing water season (1 June – 15 September).