Identified bathing waters are subject to two types of monitoring:
- Sampling for faecal indicator bacteria
- Visual assessment for possible pollution incidents, including presence of waste, proliferation of macroalgae (seaweed) and algal scums and blooms (including blue-green algae).
Update: 2pm Thursday 24 August
Staff in DAERA continue to respond to daily reports of blue-green algae within NI waters. The main site impacted has been Lough Neagh, the Lower Bann and catchments, but other sites have also been impacted including our North Coast bathing waters and lakes in Fermanagh. Increased monitoring, assessment and emergency pollution response activities are being carried out and we are now commissioning an urgent review of existing policies to ascertain whether more can be done quickly to address current trends. We will also be setting up meetings with Department for Infrastructure, Public Health Agency, Food Standards Agency and Councils as our co-deliverers in water and fisheries management issues. Local councils or water operators are responsible for managing and assessing risks associated with blue-green algae. The public are reminded that blue-green algae can be harmful to humans and is highly toxic to animals and should follow signage erected by local authorities.
Members of the public can report suspected blue green algal blooms in several ways - via the Bloomin Algae App which can be downloaded at: https://www.ceh.ac.uk/our-science/projects/bloomin-algae or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0800 80 70 60.
Identified and candidate Bathing Waters
Where there are concerns of risks to bathers’ health from a visual assessment of, for example, blue-green algae, further assessment is made by taking water samples to establish levels in relation to agreed health guidelines for safe bathing. In the case of blue-green algae, the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s guidelines are applied.
If levels of blue-green algae exceed the safe threshold from WHO, DAERA notifies the Bathing Water Operator to issue ‘advice against bathing’ notices. DAERA works closely with Bathing Water Operators to reduce and manage risks to bathers’ health from pollution incidents including blue-green algae. Depending on visual assessments of algal scum precautionary closures may be required until full sample results become available.
Bathing water data
Details of bathing water quality. Annual classifications of Bathing Water Quality are classified as official statistics.
- Bathing water data 2023
- Bathing water data 2022
- Bathing water data 2021
- Bathing water data 2020
- Bathing water data 2019
- Bathing water data 2018
- Bathing water data 2017
For further information on water quality please see Bathing water FAQ's
2022 Bathing Water Compliance
|Bathing water||2022 Classification|
|Murlough (Co Down)||Excellent|
|Portballintrae Salmon Rock||Excellent|
|Portrush Curran (East Strand)||Excellent|
|Portrush Mill (West Strand)||Excellent|
UK Bathing Water Conference
The UK Bathing Water Conference is held to discuss the challenges in preserving clean, safe and attractive beaches and bathing waters. It is managed and overseen by the UK Bathing Water Group which has representation from all devolved administrations and their associated environment agencies. The last conference was hosted by DAERA and was held in Belfast at ‘The Assembly Buildings’, Fisherwick Place on 19-21 November 2019. Most presentations from the conference are available at the links below.
How is bathing water quality tested?
The Quality of Bathing Water Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008 sets quality standards for bathing water. Bathing water quality is monitored by DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division. One of its responsibilities is to ensure coastal waters are of high enough quality for the general public to bathe in.
The bathing season runs from June through to mid-September during which water quality is assessed on 20 different occasions. Water samples are collected and analysed by DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division.
Bathing Water Quality information is updated weekly during the bathing season and displayed in the format of colour-coded posters. These posters are circulated to all beach operators for public display. Most authorities display the posters at the bathing water site, council or tourist information offices.
For up to date information on bathing water quality in Northern Ireland please see the NI Direct website.
Compliance with the Quality of Bathing Water Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008
The regulations require regular testing of bathing waters. In Northern Ireland 26 sites are formally identified, and it continues to have some of the best water quality in Europe.
When bathing water quality fails to meet a certain standard, NIEA carries out a pollution investigation to find a possible source of the contamination. Faecal pollution can arise from sewage outfalls, combined sewer overflows or from agricultural sources. The latter can be from various sources of pollution and can be difficult to control.
Nomination of new bathing waters
Should interested parties wish to nominate a site for consideration as a formally identified bathing water, they may do so at any time, subject to the nomination meeting certain criteria. These criteria include:
- provision of initial usage evidence at the site (the selection criteria for candidate sites is over 45 bathers on at least one occasion or over 100 beach users on at least two occasions across a review period)
- evidence that bathing is not prohibited or inadvisable for reasons of safety
- provision of information about site facilities for example, signage, litter collection, site access, car parks, life guards, changing facilities
- confirmation from an appropriate body that it is willing to take on responsibility as the bathing water operator
Once the Department is satisfied that the criteria have been met, it shall seek to verify the initial usage data by conducting its own survey at the candidate site during the course of the next bathing season. Should this be verified, and the other criteria continue to be met, the Department would then undertake a public consultation with a recommendation that the candidate site be formally identified as a bathing water.
Any representations, comments or queries in respect of the nomination and identification process should be directed to Marine.InfoRequests@daera-ni.gov.uk.
Bathing Water Profiles
The Quality of Bathing Water Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008 require a Profile to be prepared for each bathing water. These documents are designed to help the public make an informed choice before bathing. Each Profile gives detailed information on the physical characteristic of each bathing water while assessing the pollution risk to each site.
Assessment and interpretation of water quality data
The Quality of Bathing Water Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008 sets quality standards for a number of issues. The most important of these are the standards relating to the coliform and streptococcal groups of bacteria. In general, these can be taken as an indication of the amount of sewage or the other faecal contaminants present.
In addition to monitoring the bathing waters, DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division monitors any rivers, which run into the sea at beaches. Pollution problems at beaches often arise from within river catchments.
Standards for monitoring programmes
The Quality of Bathing Water (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2013 contain information on assessing bathing water quality
Microbiological bathing water quality data
Each year DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division assesses the results of Northern Ireland's Bathing Water monitoring against the microbiological requirements of the Quality of Bathing Water Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008.