Beaches across the South and South East have been judged as the best in the UK, which is good news for many residents and businesses. Water quality and sand cleanliness are the main two deciding factors but, as Martin Dowse reports, more bad weather this summer could be detrimental for the sea.
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.
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.
The region with the most Blue Flags this year, with eight, was Thanet in Kent, whose resorts include Margate.
The Dorset regions of Poole and Bournemouth had four Blue Flags, as did Torbay in Devon and the Isle of Wight, which also had 13 Seaside Awards.
More than 50 English beaches have met tough new EU standards to receive Blue Flag awards for 2013.
And a further 113 beaches in England are clean enough to get Seaside Awards (formerly Quality Coast Awards).
The results were announced today by Keep Britain Tidy which administers the Blue Flag and Seaside Awards schemes in England.
The Blue Flag 55-beach total for 2013 is down on the 79-beach total for last year but beaches this year were subject to much tougher standards.
They had to meet a new "excellent" standard required under the new EU Bathing Waters Directive.
Robert Keirle from the Marine Conservation Society explains why it's important to check water quality on the South's beaches.