Record number of good beaches

The driest summer in a decade has led to a record number of beaches achieving a marine charity's top water quality award around the UK - with many in the South & South East.

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Beaches need to meet new standards next year

By the end of 2015 all designated bathing waters must meet the new minimum "sufficient" standard under the revised EU bathing water directive. This will be twice as stringent as the current minimum standard and means that some beaches will need to do more to make the grade in the future.

These include reducing pollution from sewage discharges, agricultural run-off and urban diffuse pollution, fixing mis-connected sewers and putting in place more steps to help dog owners clean up after their pets.

This year more than 160 English and Welsh beaches featured on www.goodbeachguide.co.uk will be linked to the Environment Agency's daily pollution forecast which will indicate when there may be an increased risk of pollution due to heavy rainfall.

South's bathing beaches better than ever

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said that last year's dry summer - the driest since 2003 - has resulted in more bathing beaches than ever being "recommended" for their excellent water quality in its annual Good Beach Guide.

The MCS rated 538 out of 734 (73%) UK beaches tested during last summer as having excellent water quality - 135 more than the previous year.

There were also fewer failures, with just 14 beaches tested last summer failing to reach minimum water quality standards.

In the South East of England there were no failures at all, meaning all monitored beaches met the standards set.