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Check the weather, check the water urges SEPA, with water quality information at your fingertips as Scotland’s bathing waters season begins

Date published: 31 May 2024

Bathing waters

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are encouraging visitors to "check the weather, check the water” via SEPA’s bathing waters website before heading to one of the country’s designated bathing waters this season.

Scotland has 89 designated bathing waters around the country, from Dunnet in Caithness to Brighouse Bay in Kirkcudbright, and 98% will meet or exceed the Sufficient classification for 2024, with 84% achieving the higher standards of Excellent or Good.

Last year Scotland started the season with the highest number of bathing waters ever, after the designation of Wardie Bay in Edinburgh and the re-designation of Fisherrow Sands in East Lothian. In 2024 the country starts with the best water quality on record as both begin the season rated as ‘Good’.

The full list of bathing water classifications is available on SEPA’s website.

Check the water

The season begins on the 1st of June and runs until the 15th of September. During this time, SEPA’s specialist teams will be checking the water by collecting and analysing around 1,500 water samples from all designated bathing waters. These provide regular water quality information which is published on online.

The results also form part of the four-year rolling data set that determines the classification for each bathing water every season.

SEPA’s website and electronic messaging signs, which operate at 30 bathing waters, are updated at 10am every day with real-time water quality predictions. Although generally of a high quality, the bathing waters can be affected by heavy rain and results can be accessed at so people can check before they travel.

SEPA can also make people aware of any abnormal pollution events that may impact water quality via this page, as well as using the network of electronic signs and physical signs posted by local authorities and other partners at all other beaches.

Check the weather

While sunny weather always draws more people to bathing waters, it’s important to not just check the weather on the day you go. It is recommended that users do not bathe for one to two days after heavy rain – and beaches with SEPA electronic signs will warn against bathing when poor water is predicted.

Our climate impacts on water quality, and heavy rain can wash contaminants off both rural and urban land and can cause overflows from sewage systems. These overflows prevent systems being overwhelmed with rainwater and backing up into homes and businesses.

Altogether the combination of water quality predictions and information about abnormal pollution events shared by SEPA, plus awareness of recent rainfall events and the potential impact allows people to check the water at any bathing water they plan to visit to make an informed decision whether to bathe or enjoy on-land activities.

Ruth Stidson, SEPA’s Principal Scientist for bathing waters, said:

“Scotland has the highest ever number of designated bathing waters, with the best water quality since 2015, when tighter standards first came into force.

“We know there’s many physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors and beaches can offer great spaces for that. They are regularly used by coastal communities, as well as by groups for water-based activities. Scotland has a mixture of urban and rural bathing waters, and many are accessible by walking or public transport, often making them a budget-friendly option. Visitors often plan a whole day around being at the water, which can also benefit local economies.

“We encourage everyone planning to visit our beautiful bathing waters this summer to check the weather, check the water before they leave for their day out and ensure they have the best information possible to enjoy their time in our stunning Scottish environment.”

Mairi McAllan, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Energy said:

“We now have the highest number of designated Bathing Water sites ever, with 98% of Scotland’s bathing waters currently achieving the bathing water quality standards and 84% being rated “good” or “excellent”.

“However, we are not complacent and we continue to work closely with SEPA and Scottish Water to monitor and improve water quality on our designated beaches and in our designated lochs. We want to ensure that as many people as possible are able to continue to safely enjoy them throughout this summer and beyond and I would encourage everyone to make use of SEPA’s resources and information to help make an informed decision about where and when to bathe.”

Protecting and improving water quality

SEPA’s monitoring data provides crucial evidence to drive investment and improvement in both rural and urban areas. We regulate and work with businesses, farmers and land managers across the country protect and improve water quality. This approach will continue to deliver real progress in the coming years for the future of our water environment.

Communities and visitors can help to protect our water environment, including beaches and bathing waters.

Visitors are encouraged to bag and bin dog poo, bin litter or take it away, and avoid feeding gulls as that can attract them to areas in higher numbers.  

Every year Scottish Water teams deal with around 36,000 blockages, costing customers about £7 million annually, and around 80% of those are caused by people flushing the wrong items down the toilet - particularly wet wipes - or pouring fats, oil and grease down the sink. These meld to cause blockages in the sewer system and can contribute to spills of pollution into the environment.

Professor Simon Parsons, Director of Environment, Planning and Assurance at Scottish Water said:

“We would echo SEPA’s call for people to check the weather and the water before swimming at a designated bathing water.

“Scottish Water is committed to continuing to support the protection and improvement of Scotland’s rivers and coastal waters and we are very pleased that almost all bathing waters meet or exceed the “sufficient” classification and that 84% are “excellent” or “good”.

“We check almost 500 of our assets before and during the bathing season to ensure they are delivering the level of service we expect.

“We look forward to playing our part in ensuring bathing waters become destinations for people to enjoy Scotland’s fantastic coastal waters.

“Scottish Water has invested £2.7 billion in improving and maintaining the country’s public drainage system and infrastructure over more than the past decade to help improve our waters. Our Improving Urban Waters Routemap, which supports the national River Basin Management Plan objectives (92% good water quality by 2027), commits us to additional investment of up to £500m to further improve water quality.”

Notes to editors

  • Bathing waters are designated by Scottish Ministers. Find out more about designation on SEPA’s bathing waters website.
  • Bathing waters classifications are calculated at the end of the bathing water season and apply to each bathing water for the duration of the following season. They are calculated using data from the four previous years.
  • Classifications are available on SEPA's website
  • Misconnections mean a property's wastewater is connected into the surface water network, or surface water drainage is connected to the foul sewer network. These can occur when a property is being built, or when modifications are made to a property's plumbing or drainage.
  • Full list of 2023/24 classifications
    •    Aberdeen - Excellent
    •    Aberdour (Silversands) - Excellent
    •    Aberdour Harbour (Black Sands) - Good
    •    Achmelvich - Excellent
    •    Anstruther (Billow Ness) - Excellent
    •    Arbroath (West Links) - Good
    •    Ayr (South Beach) - Good
    •    Balmedie - Excellent
    •    Barassie - Good
    •    Brighouse Bay - Good
    •    Broad Sands - Good
    •    Broughty Ferry - Excellent
    •    Burntisland - Good
    •    Carnoustie - Excellent
    •    Carrick - Good
    •    Coldingham - Excellent
    •    Collieston - Good
    •    Crail (Roome Bay) - Excellent
    •    Cruden Bay - Excellent
    •    Cullen Bay - Excellent
    •    Culzean - Excellent
    •    Dhoon Bay - Sufficient
    •    Dores - Sufficient
    •    Dornoch - Excellent
    •    Dunbar (Belhaven) - Sufficient
    •    Dunbar (East) - Good
    •    Dunnet - Excellent
    •    Elie (Harbour) and Earlsferry - Excellent
    •    Elie (Ruby Bay) - Excellent
    •    Ettrick Bay - Good
    •    Eyemouth - Sufficient
    •    Findhorn - Excellent
    •    Fisherrow Sands - Good
    •    Fraserburgh (Philorth) - Excellent
    •    Fraserburgh (Tiger Hill) - Good
    •    Gairloch Beach - Excellent
    •    Ganavan - Excellent
    •    Girvan - Sufficient
    •    Gullane - Excellent
    •    Heads of Ayr - Good
    •    Inverboyndie - Good
    •    Irvine - Good
    •    Kinghorn (Harbour Beach) - Poor
    •    Kinghorn (Pettycur) - Good
    •    Kingsbarns - Excellent
    •    Kirkcaldy (Seafield) - Excellent
    •    Largs (Pencil Beach) - Good
    •    Leven - Sufficient
    •    Loch Morlich - Excellent
    •    Longniddry - Good
    •    Lossiemouth (East) - Good
    •    Lower Largo - Poor
    •    Lunan Bay - Excellent
    •    Lunderston Bay - Good
    •    Luss Bay - Sufficient
    •    Machrihanish - Excellent
    •    Maidens - Sufficient
    •    Millport Bay - Excellent
    •    Monifieth - Good
    •    Montrose - Excellent
    •    Mossyard - Good 
    •    Nairn (Central) Good
    •    Nairn (East) - Good
    •    North Berwick (Milsey Bay) - Sufficient
    •    North Berwick (West) - Excellent
    •    Pease Bay - Excellent
    •    Peterhead (Lido) - Excellent
    •    Portobello (Central) - Sufficient
    •    Portobello (West) - Sufficient
    •    Prestwick - Excellent
    •    Rockcliffe - Good
    •    Rosehearty - Good
    •    Rosemarkie - Good
    •    Saltcoats/Ardrossan - Good
    •    Sand Beach - Excellent
    •    Sandyhills - Good
    •    Seacliff - Good
    •    Seamill - Good
    •    Seton Sands - Good
    •    Southerness - Good
    •    St Andrews (East Sands) - Excellent
    •    St Andrews (West Sands) - Excellent
    •    Stonehaven - Good
    •    Thorntonloch - Excellent
    •    Thurso - Good
    •    Troon (South Beach) - Excellent
    •    Wardie Bay - Good
    •    Whitesands - Excellent
    •    Yellow Craig - Sufficient