Coldingham Bay is recommended in latest Good Beach Guide

Heavy summer downpours have been blamed for a dip in top quality bathing water at Scotland’s beaches.

The number ranked excellent in the annual Good Beach Guide has again fallen below the UK average. Among those recommended in the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Beach Guide are Coldingham Bay in Berwickshire, and Thorntonloch, Whitesands Bay and Belhaven Bat in East Lothian. Eyemouth failed to make the grade.

Only 41% of Scottish beaches tested last summer made the grade - 45 out of 110. This was down on the year before and compares with a UK figure of 68%.

Above average rainfall is thought to have increased the amount of debris and animal faeces washed off the land.

The rest of the UK has had one of the best years on record for bathing water quality in the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) guide, but the number of Scottish beaches rated as excellent dipped by 5% from the 2011 figure.

Calum Duncan, MCS Scotland programme manager, said that water quality at Scotland’s beaches was almost certainly impacted by heavy summer rains and above average rainfall in many areas.

He added: “Intense rainfall increases surface water run-off – which contains livestock waste and dog faeces from farm land and city streets – and can cause untreated sewage to discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSO’s), both of which can have public health implications for Scotland’s coastal waters.”

MCS Coastal pollution officer, Rachel Wyatt, says the latest figures will be a boost to UK tourism, but it’s not a reason for complacency: “This is a milestone for coastal resorts to be proud of and shows the impact of the Guide over the last 25 years. However, this summer will see the first samples taken under the revised Bathing Water Directive which will replace the current standards with far more stringent ones from 2015.

“It’s really important that local authorities, water companies and environmental regulators don’t become complacent and take their collective feet off the pedal of continued environmental improvements. If that happens we could see a drop in the number of beaches recommended in the future, which could pose a risk to the great reputation that British beaches have.”

Despite an encouraging number of recommended beaches this year overall, Scotland is not the only part of the UK where bathing water quality is struggling to make the grade.

“We still need to see more investment from water companies to ensure increased monitoring of Combined Sewage Oveflows. After heavy rain, CSOs divert untreated sewage away from overloaded sewers and treatment works and discharge it directly in to rivers and coastal waters. There are around 31,000 of these overflows in operation in the UK, but less than a quarter of them are monitored to see how often they are allowing raw sewage to enter the sea.”