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Publication - Publication

Better bathing waters: meeting the challenges of the revised Bathing Water Directive in Scotland

Published: 24 Mar 2006

A report by the Scottish Executive Environment Group outlining our bathing water strategy for Scotland.

25 page PDF

483.4 kB

25 page PDF

483.4 kB

Contents
Better bathing waters: meeting the challenges of the revised Bathing Water Directive in Scotland
March 2002 to March 2006 - Projects undertaken and progress made

25 page PDF

483.4 kB

March 2002 to March 2006 - Projects undertaken and progress made

6. In any forward-looking strategy, it is important to note activities undertaken in the past, and the lessons to be learned from them. In this regard, Scotland is fortunate, having earned the right to consider itself a leader in the fields of water quality prediction and public participation. Scotland has also undertaken several trials of methods to reduce diffuse pollution from agriculture.

Bathing water quality predictions

7. Without doubt the most eye-catching and well-known of all the projects undertaken in Scotland over this period has been the introduction of electronic signs at some of our bathing waters.

8. In 2003, SEPA created a model for predicting bathing water quality. As a result, remote-controlled electronic signs were installed at five Scottish bathing waters (Ayr, Irvine, Prestwick, Saltcoats and Troon) to enable bathers to receive up-to-date, real-time information on predicted water quality.

9. This was a great improvement in bathing water management. Previously, the public could only be warned about poor water quality once samples had been taken and processed. By the time results were available, the pollution may often have already disappeared. Predictions are now available daily throughout the bathing season.

10. In 2004, the signs were extended to a further five sites (Aberdeen, Brighouse Bay, Ettrick Bay, Portobello Central and Sandyhills). Extensive monitoring was undertaken to verify predictions, and to adjust the model where necessary. Predictions proved to be 98% accurate or precautionary. The 2003 and 2004 reports are available on the Scottish Executive website ( www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/Water/15561/15068 ).

11. The trial period was a success, and ownership of the signs was passed to SEPA in 2005. The operation is now being continued as core SEPA work. Despite other attempts elsewhere to build such a system, this is still believed to be the most advanced of its kind, and measures to increase further the accuracy of the model are afoot. Not all sites may be suitable for such prediction work, nor in some areas would such signs be welcome, but this development raises new possibilities for informing the public and is one example of the ways in which we can meet the challenges of the revised Directive.

Farm pilot projects

12. Trial measures have been undertaken in four different catchments throughout Scotland (Ettrick Bay - Bute, Cessnock - Ayrshire, Nairn and Sandyhills - Dumfries and Galloway) with the aim of assessing which types of measure are effective at reducing pollution to rivers and streams, and ultimately, to bathing waters. These trials were funded by the Scottish Executive, but have been well supported by SEPA and the National Farmers Union Scotland ( NFU Scotland), as well as the individual farmers involved. A number of different methods of keeping cattle from having direct access to water courses and of preventing clean water mixing with dirty water were trialled, including the fencing-off of watercourses, construction of cow tracks, bridged crossings over watercourses and roofed steadings.

13. Initial evaluation has shown that careful targeting of fencing has a measurable effect on water quality, and intensive steading measures on Bute have also shown water quality improvements. Encouragingly, Ettrick Bay on Bute complied with the mandatory water quality standards of the Bathing Water Directive in 2005, for the first time since its designation.

14. The ability to balance the benefits of such measures with the costs involved will be a major factor in encouraging the wider uptake of these measures. The Executive's diffuse pollution strategy (see paragraphs 57 to 62) outlines our approach to this subject and possible grant arrangements. In the meantime, these projects have provided valuable experience in how to approach some of these problems, which whilst not unique to Scotland, are certainly more keenly felt here than in many other European countries. Reports about the project and the subsequent monitoring are available on the Scottish Executive website ( www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/Water/15561/15068 ).

Biogas and composting project

15. This project examined the potential of using anaerobic digestion and aerobic composting as tools to reduce the bacterial content of slurry and manure. Initial results show significant reductions. This means that spreading the resulting products on the land would present a reduced risk to water quality.

16. Costs will again need to be set against the benefits in determining whether this type of treatment can be a viable measure within the wider rural economy. A final project report (to be published later in 2006) will examine sustainability and economic issues.

SEPA environmental improvement plans

17. SEPA have drawn up environmental improvement plans to tackle pollution at some of the bathing waters most at risk from non-compliance. These have involved intensive site visits and investigation of sources of pollution, with appropriate subsequent action taken to remedy the situation.

18. As part of that work, SEPA's agricultural team also visited over 2,000 farms to ensure compliance with the Control of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (Scotland) Regulations 2003 and to promote good practice set out in the Prevention of Environmental Pollution From Agricultural Activity ( PEPFAA) Code, agreed with NFU Scotland and other parties.

19. This programme of inspections generated positive responses from farm businesses and resulted in a significant number of remedial works being carried out, resulting in the elimination or reduction of a large number of risks to bathing water compliance.

Scottish Water investment

20. The Scottish Executive authorised the investment of £1.8 billion by Scottish Water to upgrade the public sewerage infrastructure in the period covered by the Quality and Standards 2 programme, from April 2002 to March 2006.

21. During this period, Scottish Water has delivered a number of improvements to sewerage systems, and most of the schemes designed to reduce the impact of sewage on bathing water quality have been completed. The next Scottish Water investment programme, Quality and Standards 3, which runs from 2006-2014, will continue works to maintain and improve the quality of bathing waters.

Project Officer in Water Resource Management

22. The Project Officer in Water Resource Management post (supported by the Scottish Executive, Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH), Scottish Agricultural College, WWF Scotland, SEPA, NFU Scotland and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group) was created in 2001.

23. The postholder has recently been involved in the delivery and updating of the Four Point Plan for agriculture ( http://www.sac.ac.uk/consultancy/fbs/publications/fourpointplan/), as well as numerous other activities designed to help farmers prevent diffuse pollution to water bodies, including bathing waters. Most recently, the Farm Soils Plan ( http://www.sac.ac.uk/consultancy/fbs/publications/fsp/) was produced by the postholder and steering group.

Clean Coast Scotland

24. Clean Coast Scotland is currently funded by Keep Scotland Beautiful, while Scottish Water and Scottish Water Solutions previously contributed. Over this period, the Scottish Executive has continued its participation in this forum, which counts amongst its members SEPA, Scottish Water, CoSLA, SNH, environmental Non Governmental Organisations and various industrial sectors.

25. This partnership approach has facilitated communication and understanding amongst stakeholders - often with conflicting priorities. The experience of working with this group has again demonstrated the value of stakeholder participation, and the Scottish Executive is keen to see its continuation.

Bathing Water Review Panel

26. The Bathing Water Review Panel is funded by the Scottish Executive and chaired by Clean Coast Scotland. It consists of representatives from the Association of Scottish Community Councils, CoSLA, Scottish Environment LINK, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Scottish Executive, SEPA, SNH, Tourism Environment Forum and The Crown Estate.

27. The panel met for the first time in its current guise in 2005 to consider applications from councils and community groups for the designation of six new bathing waters, and to consider whether or not the six sites with the lowest recorded usage in 2003 should continue to be designated bathing waters.

28. The Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development accepted most of the recommendations of the Panel, and as a result three new bathing waters will be designated in 2006 (Broughty Ferry, Largs Pencil Beach and Longniddry). The Deputy Minister has agreed to defer the decision of whether or not to de-designate five sites until after a further review in 2006.

29. The Bathing Water Review Panel is currently funded to continue its work until 31 March 2008.

Results of bathing water monitoring

30. Bathing water monitoring against the standards of the Bathing Water Directive has produced the following results since 1995:

Table 1: Scottish compliance rates since 1995

Year

Passes
(Guideline)

Passes
(Mandatory)

Fail

Total

1995

5 (22%)

14 (61%)

4 (17%)

23

1996

5 (22%)

16 (70%)

2 (9%)

23

1997

5 (22%)

13 (57%)

5 (22%)

23

1998

3 (13%)

9 (39%)

11 (48%)

23

1999

26 (43%)

27 (45%)

7 (12%)

60

2000

24 (40%)

27 (45%)

9 (15%)

60

2001

24 (40%)

27 (45%)

9 (15%)

60

2002

24 (40%)

31 (52%)

5 (8%)

60

2003

39 (65%)

18 (30%)

3 (5%)

60

2004

32 (53%)

24 (40%)

4 (7%)

60

2005

33 (55%)

24 (40%)

3 (5%)

60

31. It is immediately apparent that over the last decade - even taking into account the distorting effect of the designation of 37 additional waters in 1999 - there has been a significant improvement in the compliance rate of Scottish bathing waters. The days of failure rates being consistently in double figures (or even 48% in 1998) appear to be in the past.

32. Since the implementation of Scotland's Bathing Waters A strategy for improvement in 2002, failure rates have been relatively stable at 5-8%. Moreover, average bacterial (faecal coliform) concentration for all samples taken at all designated sites is now less than half of levels in 2000.

33. Table 2 compares Scotland's results against those of the other Member States of the European Union to have reported results for 2004 (the latest year for which figures are available). 1

Table 2: EU Member States' 2004 compliance rates

Country 2

Coastal Water

Fresh Water

Total

Guideline

Mandatory

Fail

Total

Guideline

Mandatory

Fail

Austria

-

-

-

-

267

83.1%

15.8%

1.1%

Belgium

39

25.6%

71.8%

2.6%

72

40.3%

33.3%

18.1%

Czech Republic

-

-

-

-

176

38.6%

10.8%

12.0%

Cyprus

100

81.0%

5.0%

5.0%

-

-

-

-

Denmark

1,138

93.0%

3.8%

2.6%

111

89.2%

7.2%

0.9%

Estonia

8

37.5%

37.5%

12.5%

15

53.3%

7.3%

6.7%

Finland

103

51.2%

35.9%

1.9%

285

75.4%

23.5%

1.1%

France

1,872

73.9%

21.8%

4.3%

1,406

58.7%

36.2%

5.1%

Germany

390

91.3%

7.4%

1.0%

1,561

83.0%

12.1%

3.1%

Greece

1,965

97.6%

2.3%

0.1%

4

100.0%

0.0%

0.0%

Italy

4,884

92.3%

2.4%

0.8%

779

58.3%

9.6%

0.7%

Lithuania

14

21.4%

25.7%

0.0%

53

26.4%

58.5%

3.8%

Luxembourg

-

-

-

-

20

50.0%

15.0%

20.0%

Netherlands

82

93.9%

3.7%

0.0%

550

62.9%

35.3%

0.9%

Portugal

400

86.5%

11.0%

2.5%

73

21.9%

75.4%

2.7%

Ireland

122

87.7%

9.8%

2.5%

9

88.9%

11.1%

0.0%

Scotland

58

57.0%

38.0%

5.0%

2

0.0%

100.0%

0.0%

Slovenia

19

78.9%

10.6%

10.5%

18

27.8%

27.8%

38.9%

Slovakia

-

-

-

-

67

14.9%

7.5%

43.2%

Spain

1,826

89.5%

9.4%

0.8%

170

44.1%

50.6%

1.2%

Sweden

382

76.2%

22.0%

1.6%

412

76.9%

21.4%

0.7%

United Kingdom 3

562

79.4%

18.3%

2.3%

11

36.4%

63.6%

0.0%

Average

-

73.6%

18.7%

3.1%

-

53.9%

29.8%

7.6%

34. By comparing Scotland's results in this manner, we can see that despite very significant improvement and 'catching-up', Scotland remains amongst the poorer performers in Europe, particularly when the newer Member States' results are disregarded. However, it is important to remember the vast improvement that we have witnessed - Scotland's results are now at least comparable to those of other countries.

35. It is also important to remember that compared to its European partners, Scotland has a particular set of circumstances which make improving bathing water quality more challenging. The relatively low levels of ultraviolet radiation from sunlight (which kills bacteria), compared, for example, to sunnier Mediterranean countries, the high levels of rainfall, intensive livestock farming and topology combine to make the high pass rates enjoyed by countries like Greece extremely unlikely in Scotland.


Contact

Email: EQCAT@gov.scot

Phone: 0131 244 0205

Post:
Environmental Quality Division
Scottish Government
Area 3H (south)
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ