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Our Bathing Water enhancement programme

Work on our innovative programme to improve bathing water quality is well and truly underway.


2018 bathing season update

We’ve been working on ground-breaking, £31.5m investment programme non-stop since its launch at the start of bathing season last year. We thought the start of bathing season this year provided the perfect opportunity to give you an update on how our work is progression. 

We’ve completed a large portion of the misconnections work across our ‘magnificent seven’ bathing waters, and will have completed the corrective work in all locations   by the middle of August. 

We’re also pleased to announce that a further 17 bathing waters have been selected to receive additional funding, 14 of which were initially in the running for the Bathing Water Enhancement Programme. The work in these additional locations will include misconnections surveys and any correction work necessary, signage to encourage dog owners to clean up after their pets and various measures to reduce the impact from birds.

We’ve been working very closely with our local authority partners, who’ve been immensely supportive of the project and we’re really proud of what we’ve achieved together. 

Recent years have seen Southern Water invest millions on its wastewater network in order to reduce its impact on bathing water quality. However, bathing water is also affected by a range of other sources of pollution such as contaminated rainwater running off roads and agricultural land, wastewater from privately-owned treatment works, boats and animals on the beach such as dogs and seabirds.

Updates on the works in each of the areas are as follows:


All public misconnections have now been rectified in Deal Castle and the majority completed in Leysdown and Minster Leas – all of which will be finished by the end of July. In Minster Leas, we’ve met with Natural England to discuss putting in animal feeding troughs and fencing off the watercourses in order to curb agricultural run-off. Our sewer maintenance and replacement programme has also started in all three areas, with a number already completed.

Isle of Wight

There were no public misconnections identified as affecting the bathing water quality at Shanklin. Work has already started with nearby stakeholders and landowners to help stop agricultural run-off that is currently making its way into the sea, and work to boost resilience at pumping stations will begin later this month.


No public misconnections were found in either Selsey or Middleton-on-Sea, and all of those found in Worthing are due to be rectified by the end of July. The work to survey our sewer network for any maintenance or repairs has started across the county, with a number already completed in Middleton-on-Sea.    

The programme will have all major works in all areas completed by April 2019.

The additional 17 bathing waters to receive investment are:

  1. Hampshire 
    • Hill Head
      Stokes Bay
  2. Kent 
    • Folkestone
      St Mary’s Bay
      Herne Bay Central
      Herne Bay
      Margate Fulsam Rock
  3. Isle of Wight 
    • Cowes
      Whitecliff Bay
  4. Sussex 
    • Bognor Regis Aldwick
      Brighton Kemptown
      Shoreham Beach

The background

Our region boasts more than 700 miles of beautiful coastline – which is the lifeblood of many communities whether through tourism, business or leisure.

Over recent years, we have invested millions of pounds to reduce the impact of our wastewater network on bathing water quality. However, bathing water is also affected by contaminated rainwater running off roads and agricultural land, wastewater from privately-owned treatment works, boats and animals on the beach such as dogs and seabirds.

Our Bathing Water Enhancement Programme, investigates all of these issues and sets out a plan to collaborate with those with the power to fix them.

Our customers have backed the plans and told us they were willing to pay extra through their water bills to fund the improvements. We have earmarked £31.5 million for the programme – approximately £2 per customer over the five years of 2015-20.

The investigations

To select the seven, we undertook a rigorous selection process to shortlist 21 bathing waters from the 83 in our region for further investigation.

We then spent a year carrying out a range of detailed investigations including watercourse sampling, DNA analysis and CCTV surveys of sewers to understand the causes of pollution at each of the shortlisted bathing waters.

Meanwhile, we also held a series of customer focus groups and in total have surveyed more than 3,600 customers and more than 300 businesses to get a better understanding of the views and needs of the communities at each location.

We are producing summaries for each of the 21 which, once finalised, will be published on our website and shared with the relevant local authorities and other organisations. The summaries will give an overview of the issues our investigations uncovered at each bathing water and what could be done to put them right.

The seven bathing waters we have selected are those with the highest degree of certainty of source and solution and are therefore the best fit for intervention.

Their selection has been scrutinised and approved by an independent auditor, the Southern Water Customer Advisory Panel and the Southern Water Board.

The sites

The seven sites are:

We always set out to deliver a further seven bathing waters to Excellent, but we want to do more to protect and enhance our coastline and put the valuable findings from our investigations to good use.

That’s why we have identified a potential for a second stage of work at six of the 14 bathing waters which were not selected. These six have a possibility of attaining the Excellent standard if some interventions are pursued.

We propose to work in partnership with the local authorities at these six and intend to contribute to the required improvements ourselves.

These six are:

  • Sheerness, Tankerton, Herne Bay and Folkestone in Kent
  • Stokes Bay in Hampshire
  • Cowes on the Isle of Wight

While the remaining eight bathing waters will not receive any funding from us, they will still benefit from the detailed investigations which we have carried out that will be publicised in the summaries.

This will allow the relevant local authority or other organisations to put our findings to good use and champion initiatives such as awareness campaigns to help improve bathing water quality, for example discouraging people from feeding seagulls.

These eight are:

  • St Mary’s Bay, Margate Fulsam Rock, Littlestone and Herne Bay Central in Kent
  • Brighton, Felpham and Bognor Regis (Aldwick) in Sussex
  • Hill Head in Hampshire
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