B4: Condition of bathing waters

Final Final

Short description

This indicator assesses the condition of bathing waters. It shows the percentage of designated bathing waters meeting conditions sufficient to minimise the risk of harm to bathers from faecal pollution. It is based on a set of microbiological tests (measuring E.coli and intestinal enterococci) performed on waters used for bathing. The bacteria, if present, can cause severe stomach upsets and gastro-intestinal illness. Bathing waters are mainly coastal beaches but also include a number of inland freshwater lakes and an area on a river.

Data on Bathing water quality statistics are already published annually; longer-term trends are available in the State of the environment: water quality report. Due to the impact of COVID-19 there are no new data reported in 2021.


As reported by the Official statistics announcement for Bathing Water quality statistics England (2020) an official statistic has not been produced for 2020 and this indicator cannot be updated. This is due to the severe impacts on bathing water monitoring and analysis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the necessary adherence with government guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

Trend description

The number of designated bathing waters in England meeting at least the minimum standard (sufficient, good or excellent) has increased considerably from 45.7% in 1995 to 98.3% in 2019; it has remained relatively stable over the last 4 years at between 97.8% and 98.5%. The number of bathing waters achieving excellent status has also increased considerably since 1995, with 71.4% meeting this standard in 2019. The number of bathing waters rated as poor has remained below 3% since 2015.


Choose categories from the dropdowns below to see different breakdowns of the data. Some will not be available until a higher level is chosen.

This table provides metadata for the interim or final indicator presented above.

Indicator name

Condition of bathing waters

Indicator reference


Outcome Indicator Framework theme


Headline indicator status

Water and water environment

Relevant goal(s) in the 25 Year Environment Plan
  • Clean and plentiful water
Relevant target(s) in the 25 Year Environment Plan
  • Minimising by 2030 the harmful bacteria in our designated bathing waters and continuing to improve the cleanliness of our waters
Position in the natural capital framework
  • Condition of assets - freshwater
  • Condition of assets - marine
Related reporting commitments
  • Statutory duty under the Bathing Water Regulations (2013) to report condition
Geographic scope

England; data for individual designated bathing waters are also available

Status of indicator development


Date last updated

11 June 2021