Water at nearly all beaches used by bathers in England and Wales is clean enough to meet the highest European standards, the Environment Agency said today.
Water quality in 97 per cent of sites was good enough to be classified as "excellent", up from 76 per cent 10 years ago.
The agency said the results could change over the summer. Inspectors take weekly water samples at 494 sites to measure pollution levels. A total of 479 locations were classified as "excellent" from inspections so far this year. A further 14 beaches were rated "good" while one – Staithes in North Yorkshire – was given a "poor" rating due to levels of bacteria from sewage and livestock waste. The agency said that recent good weather, action to reduce pollution from farms, and tighter regulation of sewer overflows were responsible for the improvement.
UK water companies are investing £4bn in measures to help raise bathing-water quality further, to meet more stringent standards coming into force in 2015, the agency added.