Swimmers, surfers and holidaymakers will benefit from new plans to tackle sources of pollution and further improve water quality at more than 160 bathing water sites around England and Wales.
The Environment Agency, the government’s environmental watchdog, has helped secure a £4bn investment by the water industry in environmental improvements that will take place between 2010 and 2015.
Some 83 projects will go forward to improve water quality at 37 coastal locations, while scientific investigation will help identify sources of pollution at a further 44 sites.
In addition, water companies will also be required to fit telemetry monitoring equipment to more than 340 sewer overflow pipes. Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) allow excess water and sewage to be released into the sea or rivers during heavy rain or flooding. This stops sewage from backing up into streets and homes.
Last year, 98 per cent of bathing waters passed mandatory EU water quality checks, but a revised Bathing Water Directive will require even tougher standards from 2015.
Agricultural manure, animal faeces, human sewage and runoff from urban areas are the most common causes of bathing water pollution.
This summer, the Environment Agency will use Microbial Source Tracking (MST) techniques to identify the source of faecal and sewerage pollution, enabling Environment Agency officers to take action to protect bathing water quality.