Clean waters are important for safe recreational bathing. Access to clean bathing waters provide restorative physical and psychological benefits to users and positive impacts for local businesses through increased trade.
The safety and quality of bathing waters can be reduced by the presence of harmful bacteria. Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci can cause illness if ingested, and they are used as indicators of faecal pollution from humans, livestock and wildlife. Poor livestock waste management and raw sewage discharge into water bodies contributes to the presence of these bacteria in bathing waters. EU Bathing Water Directive reports collates data on the conditions of UK bathing water sites, classifying each across four categories from excellent to poor, including on the presence of Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci.
In 2019, the UK has 628 at coastal locations (sea and transitional waters). Between 2015 and 2019, the number of designated UK bathing water sites has increased by 11, all of which are at coastal locations. In 2019, 66.1% of coastal bathing waters were classed as "excellent", increasing by 6.2 percentage points since 2015.
Beaches generally belong to the landowner responsible for the adjoining land and their responsibility extends onto the beach to the point of the Mean High Water mark (MHW). Beaches may be privately-owned by individual landlords or organisations (e.g. National Trust and the Ministry of Defence), but most beaches are public and belong to local authorities. The responsibility for cleaning beaches lies with the owner. The ‘foreshore’ may be owned by a range of individuals/organisations, about half such land is owned by the Crown Estate. Other owners include local authorities, the RSPB, the National Trust, the Ministry of Defence and private individuals.
Some councils form partnerships with other bodies for litter clearance on beaches, others hire private contractors to clear litter or rely on voluntary litter-picking. A number of voluntary groups engage in litter clearing from beaches. District authorities with a coastline will generally include the beaches in their schedule for street sweeping. A particular issue is the removal of dead marine animals washed ashore, with costs increasing as specialist companies are required to remove these.
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The Rivers Trust has a map which shows where the sewerage network discharges treated effluent and overflows of untreated effluent and storm water into rivers. Access at: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/e834e261b53740eba2fe6736e37bbc7b/.