All Cornwall’s beaches have reached the top standard for water quality, according to this year’s Good Beach Guide.

Produced by the Marine Conservation Society, the guide says that the quality of the bathing water in all the 82 beaches in Cornwall which are regularly tested by the Environment Agency met the recommended standard.

“We are rightly very proud of our 300 beaches which are used by large numbers of local residents and visitors throughout the year ” said Edwina Hannaford, the council's cabinet member for the environment.

“The quality of our bathing waters is very important and we work closely with a wide range of partners in the Cornwall Bathing Water Partnership, including the Environment Agency, South West Water, Surfers Against Sewage and the Health Protection Agency to provide beach users with up to date information about water quality.”

One of the main factors which can affect the quality of bathing water is heavy rainfall, with discharges from combined sewer outflows causing potential problems on occasions.

The Council has been pioneering a response to combined sewer overflows (CSO) in partnership with SWW and Beach Live. In the event of a CSO discharging during the bathing season on Cornish beaches which are covered by the Beach Live initiative, signs are erected informing the beach users of the issue.

If this occurs on a life guarded beach suitable announcements are made as necessary. Outside of the bathing season permanent signs are erected at Cornwall Council designated bathing beaches with CSO’s warning users that in the event of heavy rain the water quality may be affected for up to 24 hours after the rain has cleared. Surfers Against Sewage also send text messages to subscribers if there is a CSO.

Staff from the Council’s Environment and Public Health and Protection services are also working with the Environment Agency to resolve issues of diffuse pollution from farm land that affects bathing water quality and ensure that investment is made in improving the sewage systems to prevent storm overflows from discharging as frequently.

The Council is also working with the Environment Agency to trial Short Term Pollution Prediction (STP). This involves warnings being placed at beaches, when it is predicted that the bathing water may be affected by heavy rainfall washing bacteria from agriculture, urban runoff or sewage into the sea via rivers and streams.

Staff are also working closely with the Environment Agency and South West Water to help identify properties wrongly connected to the surface water drainage system in our service area. Successful projects have recently been carried out in Bude, Falmouth and Truro.