The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has recommended 41 Scottish bathing beaches for excellent water quality in its annual Good Beach Guide. This is just over one third of the 109 tested and 3 less than it recommended last year.
Bathing water quality peaked in 2004 when MCS recommended 56 of Scotland's beaches - almost half - and the society blames the subsequent steady decline largely on storm related pollution driven by poor weather.
Bathing water tests conducted from June to September 2008 coincided with the one of the wettest summers on record in Scotland and although beaches failing the minimum legal standard fell slightly from 18 to 17, MCS blames the continued drop in water quality on a combination of flood water mixed with sewage gushing from combined sewer overflows and polluted storm water running off farm land and city streets into rivers and the sea.
Among the beaches receiving a "fail" grade for poor water quality are several Edinburgh and Lothians city beaches including Portobello, Fisherrow in Musselburgh, and further afield in Fife St. Andrews West Sands failed. Local beaches that earned a top rating of "Recommended" are Longniddry (pictured), Seacliff, and Yellowcraigs (Broad Sands Bay). St. Abbs and Coldringham in the Borders were also recommended.
Calum Duncan, MCS Scottish Conservation Manager, said "MCS has been saying for years that climate change is likely to increase storm pollution around Scotland's coast. If we're to deal with that problem then specific counter pollution measures are required now, including new farming practices, investment in sustainable urban drainage systems, a significant expansion of the sewer system to handle large volumes of storm water and end-of-pipe monitoring on combined sewer overflows."
MCS said it acknowledges the £2.6 billion invested since 2000 to improve the country's wastewater treatment infrastructure and efforts since 2006 by Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the Scottish Government, Scottish Water and the Water Industry Commission to deliver a new £150 million coastal water environment improvement programme coupled with targeted strategies. It said it would continue to support these efforts on the coast through the Scottish Bathing Water Review Panel and Clean Coast Scotland.
Mr Duncan continued: "We're recommending 41 beaches for excellent water quality this year, which is good, but poor quality bathing water carries health risks. MCS advises people to use the Good Beach Guide and do three things; pick bathing beaches with a good water quality record, stay out of the sea for at least 24 hours after heavy storms and report pollution problems to us via the Good Beach Guide website."
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) works in partnership with MCS, and the Good Beach Guide carries information about the RNLI's national beach safety programme as well details of beaches patrolled by the RNLI lifeguards and Local Authority lifeguards.
‘MCS Recommended' is one of five UK beach awards, but is the only scheme that focuses entirely on water quality standards and the risk of sewage pollution. MCS will only recommend beaches in the Good Beach Guide if they are better than the Guideline European water quality standard and are not affected by inadequately treated continuous sewage discharge.
The 22nd edition of the Good Beach Guide is published in support of the MCS Campaign for Clean Seas & Beaches at www.goodbeachguide.co.uk.
How clean are our beaches?
The annual MCS survey awards beaches one of 5 ratings. The highest award is Recommended. The lowest is Fail.
Lothian Beaches - Region - 2009 Grade - 2008 Grade
- Thorntonloch East Lothian Recommended Recommended
- Whitesands Bay East Lothian Basic Pass Recommended
- Dunbar - East East Lothian Basic Pass Recommended
- Dunbar - Belhaven East Lothian Fail Guideline
- Peffersands East Lothian Basic Pass Recommended
- Seacliff East Lothian Recommended Recommended
- North Berwick - Milsey Bay East Lothian Fail Guideline
- North Berwick - West Bay East Lothian Basic Pass Basic Pass
- Yellowcraigs (Broad Sands Bay) East Lothian Recommended Recommended
- Gullane East Lothian Guideline Guideline
- Longniddry East Lothian Recommended Guideline
- Seton Sands, Longniddry East Lothian Basic Pass Recommended
- Fisherrow - West East Lothian Fail Fail
- Portobello - Central (James Street) City of Edinburgh Fail Basic Pass
- Portobello - West (King's Road) City of Edinburgh Fail Basic Pass
- Cramond City of Edinburgh Basic Pass Basic Pass