The Solent Forum

Working in partnership for the future

Amenity and Public Health

The Beach starts here. © Litter Free Dorset
The Beach starts here. © Litter Free Dorset

Bathing Waters & Beaches

Clean waters are important for safe recreational bathing and watersports. Access to clean bathing waters provide restorative physical and psychological benefits to users and positive impacts for local businesses through increased trade.

A designated bathing beach is an area of a natural or artificially constructed pond, lake, stream, river, bay, tidal waters, ocean or other body of fresh or salt water, which is used for bathing and swimming purposes. Swimfo allows you to look up details of a designated bathing water by name or location including information on water quality.

The safety and quality of designated bathing beaches and beaches 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. 

Solent Context and Issues

The Solent Bathing Water Quality Award Scheme, administered by the Solent Forum on behalf of the Solent Water Quality Group, provides a simple and readily understood indicator of satisfactory water quality at bathing beaches. It is based on long term water quality monitoring over the previous summer, and is based on a minimum of 16 samples. All beaches regularly used for bathing (private or Local Authority managed), non-designated as well as designated, can apply for an award under the scheme.

It is important to note that many beaches on the Solent, particularly in the harbours, can be affected by short term pollution events. These are unplanned sewage overflows that can occur at any time but particularly if there has been heavy rainfall in the previous 72 hours.

Southern Water's beachbuoy gives near real-time information about releases of stormwater or wastewater near outfalls. On its interactive, online map you can see updates about releases from combined sewer overflows. In November 2022 it published its Bathing Water Season Update from its Clean Rivers and Seas Task Force.

Our Solent Plastics Pollution hub provides comprehensive information on beach cleaning and litter picking with links to resources and local community groups. Its associated Facebook page gives details of events and the latest news.

Seafood (shellfish)

Shellfish water protected areas protect water help to ensure the safety of public heath from seafood consumption. In the Solent these include Chichester, Langstone, Portsmouth, Southampton Water and the Western Solent, you can view the areas spatially via Defra's Magic map.

Clean waters are important to ensure seafood doesn't lead to human illness from ingestion of contaminated seafood through:

  1. Raw, undercooked or poorly processed fish and shellfish contaminated by pathogens can cause diseases such as hepatitis A, cholera or typhoid. 
  2. Consumption of seafood that has been contaminated by industrial chemicals such as mercury, lead and pesticides. 
  3. Consumption of seafood contaminated by natural algae-related toxins, such as domoic acid, ciguatoxin and saxitoxin.

Shellfish harvesting areas for human consumption are classified on the basis of concentrations of the faecal coliform indicating bacteria, Escherichia coli, within shellfish flesh. The Food Standards Agency sets the overall policy for monitoring and classification.

Solent shellfish waters © MAGIC
Solent shellfish waters


Prohibited - prohibited for human consumption.

Unclassified - the specific waters have not undergone the necessary assessments and monitoring required for classification, so have not been evaluated for potential contaminants, pollutants, or toxins that could affect the safety of shellfish.

Solent Classifications

 Classifications in the Solent are as follows. Precise individual classification (A,B,C etc.) can be found on the Cefas website.


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