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Number of English bathing waters classed as ‘excellent’ hits record high

There has been a sharp increase in the number of bathing waters classed as ‘excellent’ according to official figures released today, continuing an upward trend showing the benefits of record investment by water and sewerage companies.

According to the new figures from Defra an additional 18 bathing waters reached the ‘excellent’ rating, meaning that for the first time more than 70% have achieved that status.

Defra has announced that 71.4% of English bathing waters have been given the top mark in 2019, up from 67.1% last year. A record total of 93.3% are now classed as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good.’

These figures are in stark contrast to the early 1990s, when less than a third of bathing waters would have met today’s standards following years of underinvestment when the water sector was owned and run by the government. Since then, water companies have spent over £2.5 billion to protect UK bathing waters, more than doubling the number of beaches classed as excellent compared to 25 years ago.

Commenting on the new figures, Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of Water UK, said:

“These results are testament to the ongoing determination of the water and sewerage industry to protect and enhance our precious natural environment. Our bathing waters are better than ever before, providing solid proof that the huge investment by companies is paying off. But while these results are excellent, we want to go even further, which is why the sector has made a major commitment to spend a record £5 billion between 2020 and 2025 on environmental improvements, and we’re going to continue getting better results by cutting serious pollution incidents by 90%.”

Work that water and sewerage companies have carried out to help reach these record figures includes:

  • In 2019, South West Water completed significant upgrades to its wastewater infrastructure across Plymouth to further improve water quality in the Plymouth Sound and protect bathing water quality at Plymouth Hoe East and West beaches. The £28million investment included improving key stormwater overflows across the city, removing surface water from the sewerage network in Cattedown and increasing stormwater storage capacity in Stonehouse
  • Anglian Water’s BeachCare and RiverCare programme, launched in 2014 in partnership with Keep Britain Tidy, is encouraging local communities and groups to take responsibility for their coastal habitats. Since 2018, the programmes 49 volunteer groups dedicated 52,519 hours to environmental protection, collecting over 44,000kg of waste from the region’s coastline and waterways.

In addition, water companies are working with Defra and more than 40 other organisations, including environmental groups and regulators, on the Love Water campaign which aims to raise awareness of the importance of water and the role everyone plays in protecting it. This includes raising awareness of the need for everyone to avoid polluting water sources.

The full list of bathing water ratings can be found here

For more information please contact the Water UK communications team on 020 7344 1805 or