Bathing waters

Everyone can help

Everyone can help

Pollution sources

There are several different sources of contamination or faecal bacteria that can affect the quality of bathing waters.

The main sources of bacteria are from:-

• Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) that operate during heavy rainfall to protect homes from flooding
• Run-off from buildings, land, farms and roads
• Misconnections which are incorrectly plumbed in (toilets, washing machines etc) into surface water drains
• Streams and rivers that bring bacteria from inland sources and flow into the sea at or near the bathing water
• Seabirds, such as gulls, that roost on piers and other structures at the coast
• Animals on the beach that leave faecal matter behind, such as dogs and horses

It is important that the exact cause of the bacterial contamination is found so that the correct solution can be implemented. 

Roles and responsibilities

In England the revised Bathing Water Directive (rBWD) is administered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The Environment Agency (EA) are the competent authority for implementing the Directive and this means making sure that, as a minimum, all bathing waters meet the Sufficient classification by 2015.

The Bathing Water Controller is the person or organisation that manages the bathing water and under the rBWD has to provide signage and information to beach users.

Defra Environment Agency Bathing Water Controller
Set the regulations for bathing waters in England Monitor, analyse and publish bathing water quality information From 2012 onwards place signs at each bathing water with information (e.g. from bathing water profile)
Provide guidance on implementing the requirements of the Directive Make sure action is taken to improve bathing water quality Provide information about bathing water quality at each location
Encourage public participation Provide bathing water profiles for every bathing water Provide advice against bathing if the seawater quality is classified as Poor
Enforce the regulations After 2015 bathing season classify each bathing water as either Excellent, Good, Sufficient or Poor Remove waste from the bathing water

As a water company our responsibility is to continue to operate our wastewater system effectively to protect bathing waters quality. We are committed to playing a key role in the future improvements to bathing water quality and to provide real time spill notifications to alert our customers and beach users of potential short term reduction in water quality.

What can you do to help?

We do our best to make sure that CSOs only operate when they are needed due to heavy rainfall. However, they are the pressure relief points in the sewerage system and may also discharge if the sewer system is blocked.

Such blockages are often caused by things being flushed down the toilet or put down the sink that should have been put in the bin. Examples are disposable nappies, sanitary pads, condoms, cotton buds, fats, oils and greases, which can accumulate in the sewer. Please help by putting these in the bin and not in the sewer.

Useful links with details of how you can help:-

Love your Drain

Keep Britain Tidy

Fine to Flush


Marine Conservation Society

Surfers Against Sewage

Our beaches

Our beaches  

Northumbrian Water has invested millions of pounds to improve the bathing water quality in our region over the past 15 years. Find out more

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