Bathing water quality is measured by the level present of two types of bacteria:
An increase in the concentrations of these two types of bacteria indicate a decrease in bathing water quality.
Both of these bacteria are present in the intestines of animals and humans, and can be potentially harmful to human health; bathers, who swim in water impacted by a short-term pollution incident can be susceptible to illnesses, such as, gastroenteritis and ear infections.
Potentially harmful levels of bacteria present in coastal areas of water can be caused by factors such as heavy rainfall, or high tides, washing faecal material from sewage systems, urban drainage or agricultural sources, into the sea, via streams and rivers.
Other sources of contamination can come from:
Years when sunlight is below average can see a decrease in water quality, as the sun’s ultraviolet rays are able to kill bacteria found in bathing water.
In 1975, the first European bathing water legislation, the ‘Bathing Water Directive’ was introduced to protect and improve bathing water quality, with the aim of safeguarding human health and facilitating recreational use of natural waters; it was later replaced by the 2006 ‘New Bathing Water Directive’, which incorporates stricter standards along with simplified management and surveillance methods.
Each year, designated bathing water sites receive a water quality classification; they are classified as either:
Poor – the water has not met the minimum standards
Sufficient – the water meets minimum standards
Good – generally good water quality
Excellent – the highest, cleanest class
The ‘official’ bathing season, runs from mid-May to the end of September, during this time, bathing water samples are collected, tested in a laboratory and results released, on generally, a weekly basis.
However, water quality can change within the space of a day, so weekly manual testing may not be enough to protect human health; the EU SWIM Project is building a computer model, that uses weather variables, such as, rainfall, to provide accurate water quality predictions, up to 6 hours in advance, and these predictions will be communicated to the general public, via a specially designed, free app, social media channels, our website and electronic beach signs.
During the months outside of the bathing season, the computer model is not designed to make water quality predictions, as variables dramatically change with the arrival of winter. At these times, the electronic signage will be used by the project and councils to display relevant local messages, for e.g., the sign, pictured in the image to the right, is located at a beach frequently used by horse-riders, so the sign reads a message requesting that “riders please clean-up after their horses”, therefore the signs will help to keep the beach usable and safe, for all beach users, throughout the year.
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The fishing village of Clogherhead is located on the east coast of Ireland in the County of Louth, approximately 70km north of Dublin. The headland affords uninterrupted views of the Cooley and Mourne Mountains 30km to the north and to Lambay Island 35km to the south. The village is in close proximity to the historic town of Drogheda. The village developed around the fishing industry with the waters of Clogherhead reputed as being the best fishing waters in the country. The harbour, known as Port Oriel was built in 1885. It was extensively enlarged and re-opened in 2007.
Newcastle Beach is comprised mainly of pebbles and some sand. Newcastle Beach is linked to Murlough Beach and their combine length is approximately 2.5 kilometres in length
Ballywalter Beach is comprised mainly of sand with a rocky shoreline. The beach is approximately 0.85 kilometres in length
Ballyholme Beach is comprised mainly of sand with a typical rocky shore at each end. The beach is approximately 1.3 kilometres in length
Waterfoot Beach is comprised entirely of sand, it is backed by sand dunes which run the entire length of the beach. The beach is approximately 1 kilometre in length
Portrush (Curran Strand) is comprised entirely of sand. Portrush (Curran Strand) is linked with Whiterocks Beach and they have combined length 3 kilometres
Castlerock Beach is comprised entirely of sand and backs onto a sand dune system and a promenade area. The beach is approximately 1 kilometre in length
Lady’s Bay beach consists of a sandy beach in Lough Swilly confined by Buncrana pier to the South and a small rocky outcrop 550m to the North. Activities at Lady’s Bay beach include swimming, boating, power boating, jet skiing and other land-based activities on the beach. The designated bathing area is approx. 0.02633 km2 and the extent along the water is approximately 550m.
Enniscrone Beach is an exposed sandy beach, backed by sand dunes, caravan park and golf course. There is a short coastal walk north of Enniscrone pier. The bathing area (i.e. that which is patrolled by lifeguards) is approximately 500m in length. However the beach is approximately 4.5km in length.