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Our Bathing Water enhancement programme

Our innovative project to improve bathing water quality is gathering pace.

We have now identified the seven locations where we will work with local authorities, the Environment Agency and other organisations to find and fix the causes of pollution which are preventing the bathing water from being consistently rated Excellent.

While this project has been in development for some time, we have also outlined a discretionary separate package of work for some of those bathing waters not selected as one of the seven.

We cannot resolve all of the issues ourselves – this project and our Beauty of the Beach campaign are our means of galvanising the bathing water community to help us make improvements that will benefit everyone who lives near or visits our coast.

The results

The seven are:

  • Deal Castle, Leysdown and Minster Leas in Kent
  • Selsey, Middleton-on-Sea and Worthing in Sussex
  • Shanklin on the Isle of Wight

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

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.

Next steps

We will shortly be publishing our summaries for all 21 bathing waters and will begin the implementation stage of the programme. We will use an annual assessment of the 2019 season’s results to measure success.

We are immensely proud to be leading such an innovative project to help protect our region’s stunning coastline. Click here to see how you can do your bit.

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