Our Bathing Water enhancement programme

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

Latest news and information   
The background   
The sites  
FAQs  

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:

Kent

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.

Sussex

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:

Hill Head
Stokes Bay

Folkestone
St Mary’s Bay
Littlestone
Herne Bay Central
Herne Bay
Tankerton
Margate Fulsam Rock
Sheerness

Cowes
Whitecliff Bay
Yaverland

Bognor Regis Aldwick
Felpham
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 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

Bathing Water enhancement FAQs

We will be looking at a range of potential bacteriological influences on bathing water quality such as run-off from agriculture including waste from animals and run-off from roads and industrial land.

Misconnections of domestic and commercial wastewater pipes into the surface water system can cause pollution as the waste from toilets, kitchens and other domestic facilities are carried out to sea without treatment.

Dogs and animals on the beach including seabirds can also affect water quality.

Once the investigations are completed, the seven bathing waters will be identified and the solutions to address their respective pollutions will be progressed.

This work is expected to take up to a further two years.

The programme has a budget of up to £31.5 million.

However, until the investigations are complete – we will not know what type or level of interventions are required at each bathing water and therefore exactly how much this delivery stage of the work will cost.

We have committed to work with other agencies, local communities and landowners to bring all coastal waters at bathing beaches in the region up to the standard required to achieve Blue Flag status by 2040.

However, this is dependent on continued support from our customers and regulator to do so.

The selection criteria were chosen and agreed with our regulator, Ofwat, as being the most clear and objective way of deciding which bathing waters to progress to solutions.

The whole process, from planning through to selection and the practical solutions, is being overseen by Southern Water's Customer Advisory Panel – an independent group which provides challenge, advice and scrutiny of the company's delivery of its Business Plan.

One of the selection criteria agreed by Ofwat is 'benefit to users'. This will be defined and scored by our customers. Focus groups will help us to understand what is important to customers about bathing waters. Customers will be asked to rank and score these factors to give an overall score for each bathing water.

This survey will be taking place at or around the 21 selected bathing waters throughout the 2016 bathing water season. The score will be used alongside the other criteria to choose the final seven bathing waters.

The selection criteria are essentially a process of prioritisation to ensure that the bathing waters selected have achievable results within the given budgets and timeframe and will provide the maximum possible benefit from the intervention.

The selection criteria were chosen and agreed with our regulator, Ofwat, as being the most clear and objective way of deciding which bathing waters to progress to solutions.

The selection criteria were chosen and agreed with our regulator, Ofwat, as being the most clear and objective way of deciding which bathing waters to progress to solutions.

The whole process, from planning through to selection and the practical solutions, is being overseen by Southern Water's Customer Advisory Panel - an independent group which provides challenge, advice and scrutiny of the company's delivery of its Business Plan.

We plan to continue the programme on a rolling basis over successive five-year investment periods. If future funding for these is supported by customers and secured from our regulator, the 14 bathing waters on the shortlist which weren't chosen will be reassessed along with all of the other bathing waters as part of the continuation of the scheme.

We will also advise and support, where we can, local authorities and other agencies on improvements they can make at these bathing waters in the meantime.

The next stage of the work is to carry out the detailed investigations at each of the 21 shortlisted bathing waters. This will enable us to prioritise the seven that are progressed to intervention.

The investigations will begin in January 2016 and continue over the year. They are expected to cost about £2 million in total. They are being carried out by our strategic solutions partner MWH.