Water quality warnings for the South West

As Summer begins, the sea can look very inviting. At this beach in Ilfracombe they can't resist paddling on the shore line - some people have been swimming too.

This year they're being warned not to though. The water quality here hasn't met the revised tighter EU standard for bathing and new signs have now been put up, warning people to stay out of the sea.

New signs have been put up advising people against swimming Credit: ITV West Country

One of the main problems lies in the Wilder Brook, a stream which flows down the side of the beach and out into the sea here. It carries runoff from farmland and urban areas and can carry bacteria.

This brook is one of the main problems Credit: ITV West Country

This new rating doesn't necessarily mean that the water quality has deteriorated. In fact it's been getting cleaner. It's just that the bar has been raised.

The Environment agency says it's working on a number of ways to improve the bathing water quality here at Ilfracombe. The sewer system is also being upgraded.

The water is actually getting cleaner. Credit: ITV West Country

Work is due to be completed in 2020 and there's also a partnership with farmers to try to reduce agricultural pollution in the rivers.

The campaign group Surfers Against Sewage has put together a new action plan to try to improve the water quality here too.

Ilfracombe's Wildersmouth Beach is one of only ten in England which have failed the new standard, four of them are here in the Westcountry:

  • Wildersmouth

  • Instow

  • East Looe

  • Burnham-On Sea

4 of the 10 places to fail the new standard are in the West Country Credit: ITV West Country

As many as 20 water samples are taken at each of England's designated bathing waters during the season between May and September.

Water sample gathered at another beach in the South West Credit: ITV West Country

Each sample is taken back to the lab to be tested for intestinal bacteria and E.Coli - that reveals whether sewage or animal waste is present in the water.

The new EU directive is designed to improve management of water quality and protect health and the environment..

Some people will ignore the new signs Credit: ITV West Country

Just because signs have gone up though, doesn't mean people will heed them.

Some locals fear people may be put off coming here to enjoy the seaside and it's important to mention that Ilfracombe's other two beaches, Hele and Tunnels, have good and excellent water quality for bathing.