Every beach around our coastline met European standards for bathing water quality in 2010.
For the second year in a row, all 82 beaches in the region met the European ‘mandatory’ (or good) standard.
In addition, 68 per cent of the beaches achieved the 20 times tighter ‘guideline’ standard, which is one of the criteria for a resort to be awarded a Blue Flag.
Bathing water quality is monitored by the Environment Agency (EA), which tests water samples each week between May and September.
We have invested millions of pounds in recent years to benefit the marine environment. However, the quality of bathing water can be affected by factors outside our control, such as rain running off roads and farmland and wastewater from privately-owned sewage works, boats and animals.
From 2012, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is introducing tougher water quality standards to meet new European regulations under the revised Bathing Water Directive. These must be met by 2015.
In preparation for the new standards, we carried out investigations in Worthing, Bognor Regis and Hastings in Sussex and Broadstairs in Kent to try to locate sewers incorrectly connected to our surface water drainage system and which may affect bathing water quality.
During 2011, we joined a national voluntary trial to inform local authority beach managers as soon as possible of any incidents in our region that could affect water quality. The trial is focused on beaches with Blue Flag awards and we are working in partnership with Defra, local authorities, Surfers Against Sewage and the EA.