Bathing water quality at Bognor Regis (Aldwick) - Environment Agency
Bathing water classification
In 2015, the 2006 Bathing Water Directive was fully implemented in the UK. This Directive is an updated version of the 1976 Bathing Water Directive, which was more than 30 years old. The purpose of the Directive is to protect public health whilst bathing. It sets more stringent water quality standards, and puts a stronger emphasis on the management of bathing waters by the beach operator and greater provision of public information.
Bathing waters are monitored from May until September. Bathing waters are monitored for sources of pollution known to be a risk to bathers’ health, with up to 20 samples taken from each site during the bathing season. Generally, the sampling is spread out to be taken weekly, but on a mix of days including some weekends. Each sample is tested for bacteria, specifically E coli and intestinal enterococci.
Bathing waters are classified as:
Excellent – the highest, cleanest class
Good – generally good water quality
Sufficient – the water meets minimum standards
Poor – the water has not met the minimum standards. Work is planned to improve bathing waters not yet reaching Sufficient
On 30 November 2022, Defra published the bathing water results for 2022. The 2022 bathing water classification for Bognor Regis (Aldwick), West Sussex is:
|BW Ref||Name||2019 Classification||2021 Classification||2022 Classification|
|15700||Bognor Regis (Aldwick)||Good||Good||Poor|
Up to 4 years of results are combined to give a long-term assessment of water quality over that time. This helps to identify trends, allow comparisons of water quality between bathing waters and helps inform decisions on long-term pollution reduction measures. Due to the impact of Covid restrictions in 2020, no classifications were made for the 2020 bathing season. This means that the classifications for 2022 are based on data from 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022. There are a number of factors why results may vary year on year.
What happens now
When a bathing water is classified as Poor, the local authority must display for the duration of the bathing water season (May to September) the ‘advice against bathing’ symbol, as well as displaying information on the causes of pollution and what action is being taken to clean it up. Sign templates are available.
Is bathing banned at sites with a poor classification?
At bathing water locations where advice against bathing is in place, beaches will remain open for people to visit. The Environment Agency and partners remain committed to improving water quality. As well as displaying the advice against bathing, reasons for the Poor classification will also be displayed, so that people can make an informed choice on whether to go into the water. These standards help us to provide advice and inform the public on local water quality - they do not mean swimming is prohibited and all beaches will remain open.
Is it safe to go in the water?
Anyone can become unwell when swimming in open waters. To help reduce the risk of becoming ill, Public Health England and the Environment Agency offer advice in their ‘Swim Healthy’ guidance which is available to read before making any decision on swimming.
Pollution risk forecasting
Knowing more about water quality helps people make informed decisions on when and where to swim. The Environment Agency's Swimfo website provides detailed information on each of the 400+ bathing waters in England, and for a certain number of bathing waters notifies bathers when Pollution Risk Warnings have been issued, where water quality may be temporarily reduced due to factors, such as heavy rainfall, wind or the tide. The legislation allows a small number of results to be discounted (removed from the dataset) if the public have been warned.
Arun District Council have signed up for Pollution Risk Forecasting at Bognor Regis (Aldwick) bathing water for several years. A total of 5 samples have been discounted for the period 2018 to 2022. Despite these samples being discounted, the bathing water is classified in 2022 as Poor. Further information on Pollution Risk Forecasting and the discounted samples are provided below in Appendix A.
It is the responsibility of the local authority to decide what signage is appropriate to inform bathers. Typically, local authorities will place one sign on the main bathing water signage, and a few local authorities have an electronic sign which automatically updates.
The Environment Agency will also issue a notification on its Swimfo website for any designated beaches if there has been a pollution incident that may impact on bathing water quality, throughout the year. The Environment Agency contacts the local authority directly, and prominent signs advising against bathing are put up to warn members of the public. The duration of a pollution incident will vary, and the Environment Agency would continuously assess the impacts until the cause of the incident has ceased. The warning will only be removed once the Environment Agency deems the incident to have finished and that bathers are no longer at risk.
What is being done to investigate the cause of the Poor Classification and improve water quality at Bognor Regis (Aldwick)?
The Environment Agency, Arun District Council and Southern Water Services will continue to work together through its established Bognor Regis (Aldwick) bathing water working group to investigate robustly the reasons for the decline in bathing water quality and remove and reduce the sources of the pollution to ensure this bathing water and coastal community continues to thrive. Generally, bathing water quality is reduced after rainfall as this increases the levels of bacteria that gets washed into the sea from the surrounding catchment.
This will build on previous work undertaken here, for example:
- the Environment Agency completed extensive monitoring of the surface water systems, which drain onto the bathing water to try and identify significant pollution inputs. The monitoring shows that, on occasions, some surface water outfalls are very contaminated.
- Southern Water carried out misconnection investigations in the Bognor Regis catchment. The studies were required to complete a street-based misconnections survey to identify misconnections in the surface water sub catchments that may impact on the bathing water.
- Arun District Council take part in the ‘pollution risk warning’ scheme for which Bognor Regis (Aldwick) bathing water is eligible. This potentially discounts any higher results which may be obtained throughout the season during rainfall events if a pollution risk warning is in place and the public have been warned not to swim at these times.
- the technique ‘Microbial Source Tracking’ has been used to help us identify whether the pollution is from humans, farm animals, birds or other sources, by looking at genetic code from particular types of gut bacteria or directly from animal DNA. Humans were shown to be a main source of faecal pollution, along with birds to a lesser extent. Human sources could indicate sewage outfalls, but also urban diffuse run-off and misconnected properties connected to surface water drainage.
- since 2019, Southern Water is investigating all sources of pollution from their assets to determine what action would potentially be required to improve the bathing water.
See Appendix A below, or visit www.gov.uk/quality-of-local-bathing-water
Customer service line: 03708 506 506
Incident hotline: 0800 80 70 60
Floodline: 03459 88 11 88
Appendix A - Further information
Where can I find other bathing water results?
There were 421 bathing waters classified this year in England. The majority of these are coastal, but there are 12 inland lakes and two rivers. Each bathing water is classified as Excellent, Good, Sufficient or Poor. Those bathing waters with a Poor classification will require signs to be updated next season advising against bathing.
Check the quality of beach and bathing water in England - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Who is responsible for bathing water management?
The Bathing Water Regulations set out the responsibilities of public bodies for each aspect of bathing water management:
The Secretary of State (Defra) is responsible for designating and de-designating bathing waters, providing guidance on how to implement the Regulations, preparing reports on bathing water seasons, and acting as an enforcer when local authorities fail to meet their duties.
The Environment Agency is responsible for monitoring, assessing and classifying bathing waters and providing bathing water profiles, as well as passing on information on bathing waters to public. The Environment Agency also have the responsibility to manage the quality of the water to meet the Regulations’ standards through pollution prevention measures and to notify bathers via Swimfo of pollution incidents and warnings of Short-Term Pollution.
Local Authorities are responsible for signage at bathing waters and the health of those who bathe there. They are also responsible for passing on information about pollution incidents at bathing waters to the public and to prevent people’s exposure to them.
Finally, it’s the responsibility of water companies to inform the Environment Agency and Local Authorities of any pollution incidents that take place.
What is Pollution Risk Forecasting (PRF)
Even where the water quality meets the annual standards, sometimes it can be reduced temporarily after heavy rainfall, wind, or the tide, so between May and September, the Environment Agency makes daily pollution risk forecasts for a number of bathing waters, where water quality may be temporarily reduced. It is not related to storm overflow discharges.
When a temporary reduction in water quality is forecast, it issues a pollution risk warning and advises against bathing. You can find this information on the Swimfo website or on signs at the beach that may advise against bathing.
This information enables bathers to avoid times or locations where the risk of pollution is higher than normal, and health risks from bathing may be higher than the annual classification suggests. Knowing more about water quality helps people make informed decisions on when and where to swim.
The Pollution Risk Forecast warnings are only advisory, and rather like a weather forecast, are just a 24-hour forecast of when we think water quality will probably be reduced.
To help members of the public make informed decisions about whether to go into the water, Southern Water announce when they release storm overflow discharges that could affect Bathing Waters. Their Beachbuoy system allows people to check for recent releases via a map on its website, where the data on storm overflows is published.
The Safer Seas and Rivers Service app from Surfers Against Sewage will also carry this advice.
Why are some bathing water samples discounted?
Arun District Council have signed up for Pollution Risk Forecasting since the new Bathing Water Directive came into force. The Bathing Water Regulations allow the Environment Agency to discount some results as long as the public are warned of reduced water quality on the day of the sample. A total of 5 samples have been discounted for the period 2018 to 2022 as these sample results were elevated but warning signs had been displayed on the beach on the day of sampling. Despite these samples being discounted, the bathing water was classified in 2022 as Poor.
Two of the 5 discounted samples were in August 2022. A further 2 very high samples in September coincided with pollution risk warnings but warning signage (with the correct date) was not displayed at the beach until very late in the day so these samples were not eligible for discounting.
What are the pollution risk signage requirements?
It is the responsibility of the local authority to decide what signage is appropriate to inform bathers. Typically, local authorities will place one sign on the main bathing water signage, and a few local authorities have an electronic sign which automatically updates. The Environment Agency are using Pollution Risk Forecasting at Bognor Regis (Aldwick) bathing water to warn the public when there is a risk of reduced water quality. The Pollution Risk Forecast warnings are provided on its Swimfo website. As described above, Pollution Risk Forecast warnings are a 24-hour forecast of when we think water quality will probably be reduced.
This signage is in addition to the signage required to be displayed because the bathing water has been classified as Poor.
What is the difference between Pollution Risk Forecasting and Pollution Incidents?
Pollution Risk Forecasts are nothing to do with any on-going pollution incident, they are forecasts of when quality may be reduced due to predictable pollution from natural factors such as heavy rainfall. If there has been a specific pollution incident that may impact on bathing water quality, the Environment Agency contacts the local authority directly, and prominent signs advising against bathing are put up to warn members of the public.
The Environment Agency will also issue a notification on its Swimfo website for any designated beaches if there has been a pollution incident that may impact on bathing water quality, throughout the year. The Environment Agency contacts the local authority directly, and prominent signs advising against bathing are put up to warn members of the public. The duration of a pollution incident will vary, and the Environment Agency continuously assess the impacts until the cause of the incident has ceased.
The warning is only removed from the website once it is deemed the incident is finished and that bathers are no longer at risk.
Pollution incidents can be reported at any time to the Environment Agency’s Incident Communication Service on 0800 80 70 60 or via email at Incident_Communication_Service@environment-agency.gov.uk
Southern Water must inform the Environment Agency when there has been an unpermitted discharge from their assets to the environment so an assessment can be made of the impact to the environment and any bathing waters.
What are Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and Storm Overflows/Discharges?
A CSO is an overflow pipe designed to relieve pressure on sewerage systems during periods of high rainfall, with the aim of preventing sewage from flooding homes. Overflows allow rainwater and diluted sewage (usually screened to remove solids), to bypass sewage treatment works and flow directly into rivers and coastal waters. The majority of sewers in England are ‘combined sewers’ and carry both sewage and surface water from roofs and drains.
The Environment Agency authorise the discharge of storm sewage when heavy rainfall overloads the sewer network. This is necessary in order to prevent the flooding of people’s homes, workplaces and neighbourhoods with sewage. Storm overflows are subject to strict conditions which are set out in the environmental permits for each site.
Flow-to-full treatment refers to the level of rain and wastewater, or flow, a sewage treatment works must treat before it is permitted to discharge excess flows to storm tanks or the environment. A works must treat all flows up to a limit specified in permits. This ensures there is enough dilution in any overflow to minimise its impact on the environment.
There continues to be a keen spotlight on storm overflow discharges affecting bathing waters, and rightly so. The Environment Agency has played a central role in driving better monitoring and transparency from water companies and there are new obligations on water and sewerage water companies to make real-time data on all storm overflows available all year round, including those impacting designated bathing waters.
The increase in Event Duration Monitoring associated with designated bathing waters and other blue spaces means more data on how often and for how long storm overflows discharge. This is an important step in ensuring everyone can see exactly what is happening, and will help drive the improvements and future investment needed to ensure bathing water quality is maintained and improved.
There is clearly more to do to minimise the impacts of not only sewage pollution, but also agricultural and urban diffuse pollution.
Glossary of bathing water quality terms
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