Last year was a record high for bathing waters passing 'tough' standards

New bathing water quality statistics reveal England’s favourite swimming spots have maintained high standards following last year’s record results when bathing waters were the cleanest since records began.

The water quality was tested at more than 400 beaches and lakes in the country with 98.3 per cent passing “tough standards” this year compared to 98.5 per cent in 2016.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said there have been “huge strides” made since the early 1990s, when just 28 per cent of bathing waters met the top water quality standards that were in force then. Now 92 per cent are rated excellent or good.

Michael Gove, environment secretary, said: “We want all bathing waters to enjoy the high quality which the 146 million visitors to Britain’s beaches every year expect and we will keep working with partners to drive up standards.

“Not only does our iconic coastline generate over £3.6 billion for the economy, it is a valuable part of our natural environment and we will uphold these bathing water standards as part of our plans to deliver a Green Brexit.”

In 2017, out of the 413 bathing waters measured in England, 406 (98.3 per cent) met at least the minimum standard of the Bathing Water Directive.

While 270 bathing waters (65.4 per cent) met the excellent standard of the Bathing Water Directive.

At the other end of the scale seven bathing waters (1.7 per cent) did not meet the minimum standard and were classified as poor.

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “Maintaining such high-water quality standards at English beaches is a huge success and a credit to all those individuals and organisations working hard to keep our bathing waters clean. Water quality has improved significantly over the last two decades – but to protect and enhance water quality even further we will need everyone to take the small actions that will help.”

Responding to the findings, Water UK said significant improvements have been made through “high levels of investment”.

The organisation highlighted the results are “particularly impressive” following a summer of “significant rainfall”, which can cause high levels of agricultural run-off to pollute waters.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of Water UK, said: “These are great results under difficult circumstances. It shows the benefit of all the hard work and investment water companies put into improving our rivers and beaches, and is in very stark contrast to the situation 30 years ago when beaches were often riddled with sewage.”

The Environment Agency said it will continue to “lead efforts” to ensure bathing waters are maintained and improved further, working with partners and the public to reduce pollution.

It said local action plans are in place for the waters that need improvement, involving a range of partner organisations.