The standards that bathing waters (both
fresh and salt water that is used for recreational activities)
within the United Kingdom must meet are set out in the Bathing
Waters (Classification) Regulations 1991. The standards relate to
the amount of bacteria found in 100 millilitres (ml) of water.
There are also other award schemes such as the Blue Flag (awarded
by ENCAMS) and Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Recommended.
What Bacteria are
- Total Coliforms – These are any bacteria which can be detected
in a sample.
- Faecal Coliforms - Faecal coliforms are a
specific type of coliform bacteria which are found only in the gut
- Faecal Streptococci - Faecal streptococci are
also natural inhabitants of the gut of humans and other
warm-blooded animals. Faecal streptococci tend to be found in
greater numbers in waters contaminated by agricultural pollution.
However, as faecal streptococci have a greater ability to survive
outside of the gut, they could be used as an indicator of less
recent contamination by sewage
Counts of colifiorms are generally tested for from 100
millilitres of sample water.
With these bacteria in mind the first standard is a mandatory
one that must not be exceeded; there should be no more than 10,000
total coliforms per 100ml of water or 2,000 faecal coliforms per
100ml of water.
The second standard is a guideline that should
be achieved where possible; within 100ml of water there should be
no more than 500 total coliforms, 100 faecal coliforms and 100
Sampling within Council area is carried out by
the Environment Agency and starts two weeks before the beginning of
the bathing season. Generally the season runs from the 15th May to
the 30th September, with the aim of taking 20 samples or one every
Agency webpage about bathing water quality.