Exmouth beach - Summer 2017

Defra announces 2017 bathing water quality results – East Devon District Council beaches all classed as ‘Excellent’

For the first time, the bathing waters of all East Devon District Council-owned beaches have been classed as 'Excellent' following stringent testing by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The announcement of the 2017 bathing water quality results, which was made by Defra yesterday, revealed that all six of the district’s beaches received an ‘Excellent’ classification – which is the highest and cleanest class. The classification means that the water quality over the last four years has been the best it can be.

The private beaches of Sandy Bay and Ladram Bay both attained high standards too – ‘Excellent’ for Sandy Bay and ‘Good’ for Ladram Bay.  Ladram Bay is a small beach at the head of a narrow valley fed by a stream which runs through active agricultural land.  It can be vulnerable to short term pollution incidents caused by rain water run-off, and the latest classification represents an improvement on recent years.

The news was today welcomed by Councillor Tom Wright, East Devon District Council’s Environment Portfolio Holder, who said:

This is a fantastic result for East Devon and the reward for several years of good joint working with our partners and local landowners.  Our beaches are a crown jewel for East Devon and we are proud that the bathing water meets the very highest standards which will provide water users with opportunities for enjoying our sea safely.

The top classification is a goal that the council has been aiming for and is a result of a combined effort between the council, the Environment Agency, South West Water and local farmers and land owners. The organisations have worked together to reduce the potential for dirty water to enter East Devon’s rivers and streams, and to inform and educate the public.

The water quality is tested by the Environment Agency every week throughout the summer and the results are considered alongside those from the previous three years too.

The district council’s Environmental Health team are advised of the results, and are responsible for informing members of the public about water quality.  This information includes a system of real time predictions of poor quality and the council recently installed an electronic sign at each of its beaches so that people using the water can see whether the water on any particular day is likely to meet the required standards. 

Poor water quality has been shown to occur only after heavy rainfall around our coasts, and most likely on beaches fed by rivers and streams. The standards were tightened in 2015 meaning that the ‘Excellent’ classification represents only the very best water quality.