Cornwall's beaches make the grade

Sennen Cove, Cornwall, clean bathing water

All Cornwall’s beaches have made the grade against tough bathing water quality standards, according to figures published by the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs in mid November 2017.

Of the 142 designated bathing waters assessed in Devon and Cornwall just three – Combe Martin, Instow and Ilfracombe (Wildersmouth) in Devon – have been rated as ‘poor’ under new standards introduced in 2015, which are twice as tough as in previous years.  Amongst the 80 Cornish beaches tested, 61 were rated as excellent, these included PentewanGyllyngvase, Coverack (that earlier this year suffered devestating flooding) Sennen Cove, Holywell Bay and Sandymouth at Bude amongst many others.
Malcolm Bell, Chairman of the BeachWise Forum for the South West and Chief Executive of Visit Cornwall, welcomed the results.

He said: “It’s fantastic to see all Cornwall’s beaches pass these tougher tests with flying colours for the second consecutive year, despite the wetter weather this summer, with Devon not far behind. 

“Bathing waters are much cleaner and have continually improved since 1990 when just 27% met European water quality standards. This is thanks to massive efforts by Defra, the Environment Agency, water companies, councils, local communities, farmers and environmental organisations.
“This year is only the third time that the results have been reported against the new standards, and the second consecutive year that 100% of Cornwall’s beaches have made the grade.”

The new regulations classify bathing waters as excellent, good, sufficient or poor, based on the level of bacteria in the water as monitored by the Environment Agency between May and September. Up to four years of results from 2014 to 2017 are combined to indicate water cleanliness.
Malcolm added: “The beaches rated as poor are still open for people to enjoy but it’s really important that all the organisations and the local communities involved continue to play their part to improve and protect bathing water quality.”

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said: “Maintaining such high water quality standards at English beaches is a huge success and a credit to all those individuals and organisations working hard to keep our bathing waters clean. Water quality has improved significantly over the last two decades - but to protect and enhance water quality even further we will need everyone to take the small actions that will help.”
Bathing water quality can be affected by many factors including rainwater running off roads and roofs, run-off from agricultural land, water company infrastructure, sewage from privately owned treatment works and septic tanks, boats or even animals such as dogs or seabirds on the beach. This can be made worse by heavy rain.
The full list of bathing water ratings