Bathing season kicks off across England for 2024

The bathing water season has started today, with monitoring by the Environment Agency now underway

The bathing water season has officially begun (Wednesday 15 May 2024), marking the start of rigorous testing of water quality from the Environment Agency at designated swimming sites. 

Our bathing waters bring important social and health benefits to local communities and help coastal towns prosper by attracting tourists from across the UK and the world.  

Throughout the season, which runs from 15 May until the end of September, the Environment Agency will be taking more than 7000 samples at 451 designated bathing waters across England.  

The samples are tested in our labs and then the results are uploaded onto Swimfo, which provides regular information on water quality across all designated bathing waters to help the public make informed decisions about where to swim. This is updated daily and provides immediate access to information on every bathing water in England, including coastal locations, inland lakes and the 27 newly designated sites across the country.

On Swimfo, the public can also access Pollution Risk Forecasting (PRF) information, which is updated daily to indicate any temporary reduction in water quality due to factors such as the weather or pollution incidents affecting bathing waters. The Environment Agency works with local authorities to ensure signs are posted at these swimming locations to inform bathers about any possible dips in water quality due to rainfall, wind, and high tides. 

This information is regularly updated throughout the season and then an annual classification for each bathing water, based on four years of data, is announced later in the year. This is the best way to assess long-term trends and provide the most appropriate pollution prevention measures for each site.

Environment Agency Chair Alan Lovell said: 

“Public confidence in bathing water quality is key to the tourism industry as well as people’s health and wellbeing. This is why we monitor 451 sites throughout the bathing water season and provide pollution risk forecasting where available.

“Targeted regulation and investment over several decades have driven significant improvements to bathing waters, with 96% of sites meeting minimum standards – up from just 76% in 2010 and despite stricter standards being introduced in 2015. 

“We are also strengthening our regulation and working with the water sector, farmers, industry, and others to help them be mindful of their surrounding environment and improve our bathing waters for all.” 

The Environment Agency has driven £2.5 billion of investment and facilitated partnerships to dramatically improve our bathing waters. 

Last year, 96% of bathing waters in England met minimum standards and 90% of bathing waters in England were rated as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, up from 76% in 2010, despite the classification standards becoming stricter in 2015. The government also updated its guidance last year to make the application process clearer and easier to follow.   

The UK Health Security Agency and Environment Agency also offer advice in their ‘swim healthy’ guidance, which is available to read before making any decision on swimming.

From: Environment Agency