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Bacteria increase after wettest summer in 100 years
The record rainfall in the UK this summer has had an effect on water quality at some of Wales’ beaches, says Environment Agency Wales.
Bathing water has improved significantly over the last 20 years, with almost 99% (all but one) of the beaches meeting the Bathing Water Directive standards last year, compared to only 78% in 1992.
This improvement is partly due to a £1 billion Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water investment programme over 20 years, working with Environment Agency Wales, as well as improved practices by farmers.
However, with Met Office figures showing that the UK has experienced the wettest summer in 100 years, samples taken by the Agency since May have shown that this led to a temporary increase in bacteria.
The bacteria comes from different sources that include:
The lack of sunshine has also failed to improve the situation as the sun’s UV rays would usually kill some of the bacteria found in the sea.
Although this bacteria is not at a high enough level to pose a risk to people, it will affect bathing water classifications for 2013, due to be announced later in the year.
Tougher standards are also coming into force under the revised Bathing Water Directive this year that includes some standards that are twice as tough as those currently in place.
To meet these higher standards, the Agency is continuing to advise Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water on further investment and tackling pollution from all other sources.
During the bathing water season (which runs from May to the end of September) Environment Agency Wales collects and tests 2,000 samples from the 100 designated beaches in Wales.
Chris Mills, Director Environment Agency Wales, said: "The heavy rain this summer has not only caused significant flooding and problems for farmers and tourism; it has also affected bathing waters at some of our beaches.
"It is disappointing as the trend for bathing waters in recent years is on the up, but the record rainfall this year could buck this trend.
"Tougher standards could also give the impression that bathing water has declined but this is not necessarily the case. What these new standards will ensure is even cleaner bathing water quality in the future.”
Lesley Jones, Chief Executive Keep Wales Tidy, said: "Wales has some of the cleanest beaches in the UK and Keep Wales Tidy continues to issue prestigious coastal awards, including the Blue Flag Award.
"This, together with the recent opening of the Wales Coast Path, will attract even more visitors to Wales and benefit the tourism industry which is vital to our economy.
"New, stricter criteria for judging water quality will ensure that visitors to these beaches are guaranteed excellent facilities and an even high standard of water quality.”