Northern Ireland’s Bathing Waters show overall improvement in 2022

Date published: 08 December 2022

The 2022 Bathing Water Compliance report shows the highest ever number of Northern Ireland’s bathing waters have met the best possible standard of ‘Excellent’


25 of 26 bathing waters around our coast have met strict standards for quality, with 21 of these classified as ‘Excellent’, a prerequisite for the coveted Blue Flag Award. A further three have been classified as ‘Good’ with one ‘Sufficient’. Unfortunately, one site at Ballyholme marginally failed to meet the minimum standards.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs said ‘This is great news for Northern Ireland’s beaches. The improvement in the number of beaches reaching the ‘Excellent’ standard is a result of effective partnership working with our stakeholders and partner agencies. Our beaches contribute to the health and well-being of locals and visitors alike and this confirmation will reassure the many people who visit our fantastic outdoor spaces safely and hopefully encourage more to do so.

“The ‘Poor’ classification at Ballyholme is, however, very disappointing. The higher bacterial counts happened after wet weather events when our waters experienced pressures from both waste water overflows and from farm runoff. We are determined to see improvement here and we will be redoubling our efforts and continuing to work with both NI Water and the agriculture sector to investigate the sources and to reduce water pollution.”

The 2022 results are:

Excellent Quality





Brown’s Bay







Magilligan Benone

Magilligan Downhill


Murlough (Co Down)

Portballintrae Salmon Rock

Portrush Curran (East Strand)

Portrush Mill (West Strand)

Portrush Whiterocks



Good Quality


Helen’s Bay


Sufficient Quality


Poor Quality


Download the 2022 Bathing Water Compliance results.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Northern Ireland has 26 identified bathing waters which must meet stringent water quality standards set in The Quality of Bathing Water Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008.  The bathing season runs from 01 June until 15 September annually. In 2022, there were 20 samples collected at each identified bathing water during the season.
  2. Comparing the 2022 with the 2021 classifications, the overall classification for 19 locations were unchanged. An improvement in classification was observed at 4 locations; Ballygally, Ballyhornan and Brown’s Bay moved from ‘Good’ to ‘Excellent’ whilst Waterfoot moved from ‘Sufficient’ to ‘Good’. A deterioration in classification was observed at 3 locations;  Helen’s Bay dropped from ‘Excellent’ to ‘Good’, Newcastle dropped from ‘Good’ to ‘Sufficient’ and ‘Ballyholme’ dropped from ‘Sufficient’ to ‘Poor’.
  3. A series of results from the end of July through to early August 2022 had to be recalled due to a quality control failure with some of the laboratory consumables and have therefore not been able to be used in the overall classification.  This issue was connected with the widespread difficulties in obtaining lab supplies during and post-COVID.
  4. DAERA continues to work with NI Water to improve the water environment through     targeted investment in improved sewage treatment and with the agriculture sector to administer a number of agri-environment incentive schemes.  Given the ‘Poor’ classification recorded in Ballyholme in 2022, the Department has begun to work with these partner organisations to direct extra resources towards identifying the source/s of pollution and finding solutions to reduce the impact from these sources. 
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