New future for water quality monitoring at East Cowes Esplanade

East Cowes Esplanade is increasing popular for Isle of Wight swimming and will now be monitored by the Environment Agency . (Inset: photo by Pexels).
East Cowes Esplanade is increasing popular for Isle of Wight swimming and will now be monitored by the Environment Agency . (Inset: photo by Pexels).

After seasons of asking, East Cowes Esplanade on the Isle of Wight, has been added to bathing water sites monitored by the Environment Agency.

Its new status means the Environment Agency will now regularly take samples to assess water quality and whether action is needed to cut bacteria levels.

Monitoring will begin on May 15, officially the beginning of the bathing water season. The results will be used to classify the bathing waters in the autumn.

The pebble beach has become increasingly popular with swimmers and families, and a group called the Shrape Swimmers regularly takes to the water there.

Isle of Wight County Press: East Cowes beach and Esplanade.
Isle of Wight County Press: East Cowes beach and Esplanade.

East Cowes beach and Esplanade.

From next month, like other sites around the Island, including nearby Cowes and Gurnard, water quality will be monitored from May, until September 30. There had been calls to extend the water quality monitoring season to all year round, but this will not happen.

In 2021, it emerged Cowes and Gurnard had recorded the most storm discharges in the UK.

In that time, Gurnard had 321 discharges, the highest incident of sewage discharge in the UK, according to Surfers Against Sewage, and it was closely followed by Cowes, with 318 discharges.

Despite that, in Janaury this year, Defra found there had actually been an improvement in bathing water quality at the Gurnard.

After record fines and criticism, Southern Water is making the Isle of Wight a trial zone for reducing the amount of sewage dumped into our waters by 80 per cent, by tackling what goes through the Sandown Waste Treatment Works, which handles around 90 per cent of the Island’s waste water.

Read more: Water firm promises end to Isle of Wight sewage misery

For the new listing for East Cowes, a public consultation ran from February 9 to March 2.

There were 132 responses, of which 131 supported the proposed designation, Defra said.

As well as East Cowes Esplanade, a river in Oxford will also be monitored for the first time.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: "The residents of Oxford and the Isle of Wight have shown their overwhelming approval for these sites as places to enjoy and connect with nature, so I am pleased to see these locations receiving designated bathing water status.

"While bathing water quality has improved in recent years and England now has the cleanest bathing waters since records began, we know that water quality at these sites won’t change overnight.

"It will take time and all those with a role to play must commit to achieve the necessary improvements.

"We are continuing to drive up the quality of lakes, rivers and seas for the public to enjoy through the measures in our Environment Act, and I would encourage more applications for popular bathing areas, both inland and coastal, that may also be suitable for designation."

Isle of Wight County Press: Gurnard seafront (Google Maps).
Isle of Wight County Press: Gurnard seafront (Google Maps).

Gurnard seafront (Google Maps).

The Environment Agency has been monitoring bathing waters since the 1990s.

In 2021, 99 per cent of England’s bathing waters met the minimum bathing water standard and of these, 95 per cent met the highest standard of excellent or good.

This compares with 98.3 per cent passing the minimum required standards in 2019 and is the highest number since new standards were introduced in 2015.

Meanwhile, the Government is aiming to tackle the number of discharges of untreated sewage from storm overflows, including discharges into bathing waters. Under the proposed plan, there will be over 70 per cent fewer discharges close to bathing waters by 2035, during the bathing season.

In January, the County Press reported how studies on the Solent had informed a report on water quality presented to the Government.