The Environment Agency has begun its seasonal water quality testing at bathing beaches in Cornwall.

More than a third of England’s bathing waters are here in Devon and Cornwall and attract tourists from across the world.

These five new inland locations in South Devon will join the catalogue of more than 150 sites in the two counties that will have their water quality tested between May 15 and the end of September.

The Environment Agency’s comprehensive results for the last four years can be viewed on Swimfo so people can make informed decisions about where to swim. 

Bruce Newport, Environment Manager for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “Our systems are all in place to monitor our magnificent beaches. We check the results as they come in from all beaches and are ready to investigate any results that show a potential problem.  

“All our beach samples will be sent to our lab at Exeter and the results published as soon as they are available. Most of our beaches are rated as excellent or good so a safe bathing spot is easy to find by looking at Swimfo.” 

The Swimfo website is updated daily and provides immediate access to information on every bathing water in England. This site has a wealth of information about the locations and where samples are taken.   

 This information is regularly updated throughout the season and then an annual classification for each bathing water, based on four years of data, is announced later in the year. It is the data from the Environment Agency that drives water company investment all around the coast which is why there has been an improvement over the past 20 years in beach quality. 

Environment Agency Chair Alan Lovell said: “Public confidence in bathing water quality is key to the tourism industry as well as people’s health and wellbeing. This is why we monitor 451 sites throughout the bathing water season and provide pollution risk forecasting where available. 

“Targeted regulation and investment over several decades have driven significant improvements to bathing waters, with 96% of sites meeting minimum standards – up from just 76% in 2010 and despite stricter standards being introduced in 2015.  

“We are also strengthening our regulation and working with the water sector, farmers, industry, and others to help them be mindful of their surrounding environment and improve our bathing waters for all.”  

The Environment Agency has driven £2.5 billion of investment and facilitated partnerships to dramatically improve our bathing waters.  

 Last year, 96% of bathing waters in England met minimum standards and 90% of bathing waters in England were rated as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, up from 76% in 2010, despite the classification standards becoming stricter in 2015. The government also updated its guidance last year to make the application process clearer and easier to follow.    

 Designated bathing waters are specifically managed to achieve water quality standards presumed to be protective of health which is not the case for other water bodies that the public may choose to swim in.

To reduce risk from bathing waters, the UK Health Security Agency and Environment Agency also offer advice in their ‘swim healthy’ guidance which is available to read before making any decision on swimming.