Following Water UK’s announcement that water companies will support applications for 100 sites on inland waterways to achieve designated bathing water standard status, Philip Dunne calls on the Government to ensure that resources are available to properly monitor these new sites.
Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
5. What steps her Department is taking to support bathing waters. (905122)
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Dr Thérèse Coffey)
There are now 424 designated bathing sites. Four new sites have been added this year, including two in Rutland Water, one in Plymouth and one in my own constituency, on the River Deben, near Waldringfield. That is the highest number of bathing water sites we have ever had.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that bathing water sites are designated on the basis of how many people bathe there rather than water quality. However, thanks to targeted regulation and investment of £2.5 billion, we have made excellent progress in improving bathing water quality at existing sites, such that 93% of bathing waters were classified as good or excellent last year, up from just over 70% in 2010.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for her answer. She will be aware that last week, Water UK announced that water companies will support applications for 100 sites on inland waterways to achieve the bathing water standard. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Environment Agency is resourced to facilitate monitoring of those sites on their journey to achieve that important designation of clean water in our rivers?
I assure my right hon. Friend that the Environment Agency will do the monitoring that is expected for all designated bathing water sites. I welcome what the water companies said last week—both their apology and their proposal to support more inland waterways to achieve the bathing water designation. However, let us be clear: the money announced by the water companies was what we were expecting, to comply with the storm overflows discharge reduction plan that we have already set in place. We will continue to ensure that the regulations promote bathing water sites, but the ultimate benefit of subsequent targeting and interventions will be improved water quality.