SEPA provides daily information on predicted water quality at 23 designated bathing water sites.
When the message: “BATHING NOT ADVISED TODAY RISK OF POOR WATER QUALITY” is displayed on the sign, it indicates a risk that the quality of the bathing water at that time may be poor. In this circumstance, bathing is not advisable. When the message: “GOOD WATER QUALITY IS PREDICTED TODAY” is displayed on the sign, this means that the water is likely to comply with quality standards for bathing.
Information is displayed on electronic message signs at the bathing water sites and daily forecasts are also displayed on the SEPA website and are available via Beachline services.
The electronic message signs allow water quality predictions to be shown, indicating either mandatory quality (good) or risk of water failing to meet the mandatory standard (poor). Although generally of a high quality, the bathing waters were selected because they were previously found to be at risk of not meeting European standards during or after wet weather. The daily water quality forecasts are made using our extensive rainfall and hydrological information network to inform decisions. The sign status is then recorded via a computer control station which enables switching to the relevant version of text message.
We have been responsible for the real-time electronic signage since 2005. The work was initially funded by the Scottish Government and piloted jointly in 2003–2004. We provide scientific advice, technical input and manage the daily operation of the sign network.
A firm of consulting engineers has been sub-contracted to manage civil engineering and field work and to provide technical support. In addition, relevant local authorities and Clean Coast Scotland have also been consulted and provide advice.
Providing information on bathing water quality to the public is an important part of the revised Bathing Water Directive. Our real-time bathing water quality prediction and electronic signage network is a leading example of how this can be achieved. The system puts Scotland at the forefront of this public information provision, helping keep bathers up-to-date by providing daily forecasts of predicted water quality at 23 of Scotland’s beaches.
All the main coastal sewage discharges in south west Scotland now have full biological treatment provided to protect the environment and bathing water quality. This treatment is fully in accordance with European standards (eg as prescribed by the EC Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive). Much work has also been done to reduce run-off from farms in the catchment areas into rivers and streams flowing to the sea near bathing waters. Despite these extensive improvements, the risk of short-lived pollution during or following substantial rainfall events remains. The purpose of the signage project is to warn the public when these conditions may exist.
The signs are not intended to be an alternative to environmental improvements or action to reduce pollution, but to provide additional public information. Efforts to reduce or eliminate potential sources of pollution are continuing and are reducing the frequency with which potential poor quality warnings have to be issued.
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Details of device support is available here: Supported Devices