Walpole Bay water quality improves yet again – but downgrades for Botany Bay and Western Undercliff

Walpole Bay Photo David Townsend

Bathing water at beaches across Thanet have been rated as Good or Excellent in Defra’s Bathing Water summer sampling regime.

Quality at Walpole Bay has been upgraded from sufficient to good, a leap from the poor ratings under EU water quality regulations in 2015 and 2016 and Sufficient ratings in 2017 and 2018.

The new rating means Walpole Bay could be designated for a Seaside Flag award next year.

Margate’s Fulsam Rock has also been upgraded from Good to Excellent.

Ramsgate’s Western Undercliffe slipped from Excellent to Good, as did Botany Bay in Broadstairs. Southern Water has pledged to carry out analysis work at Botany Bay to examine what caused a spike in readings for Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci.

Western Undercliffe Photo Brian Whitehead

These can be affected by contaminated rainwater running off roads and agricultural land, wastewater from privately owned treatment works, boats and animals on the beach such as dogs and seabirds.

Mike Humber, Head of Maritime and Technical Services at Thanet District Council, said: “Our 19 miles of coastline provide a fantastic choice of beaches which becomes even more desirable when such positive bathing water results are recorded for another year.

Walpole Bay Photo James King

“We are extremely pleased to have seen the momentum at Walpole Bay, where there has been a continued increase in water quality over the past three years to get to ‘Good’ in this year’s classification. This is recognition of the commitment and hard work put in by officers, various agencies, voluntary groups and local people who have worked hard at Walpole Bay in particular to improve its water quality.

“These results, combined with annual beach awards, continue to put Thanet on the map as a quality visitor destination and are a symbol to people that the beach and facilities live up to the highest standards of safety, cleanliness, access and environmental management.”

Across Kent there are 18 ‘Excellent’ bathing waters, 10 ‘Good’ and one ‘Sufficient’, mirroring last year. None are rated as Poor.

Dr Alison Hoyle, Southern Water’s director of risk and compliance said: “Water at the beaches around our coast has never been cleaner. The trend of improvement has continued again in 2019 thanks to the collaborative approach taken between councils, regulators, charities and Southern Water. It is hard to believe that 30 years ago only 41 per cent of beaches in the region met the ‘Sufficient’ standard.”

Botany Bay Photo by Carole Adams

Southern Water has invested more than £32 million on improving bathing waters in the past five years.

The way bathing water quality is measured is now twice as stringent as before, following the implementation of the revised European Bathing Water Directive in 2015.

Designated Bathing Water Testing – Definition by the Environment Agency

The Environment Agency takes up to twenty water samples at each of England’s designated bathing waters during the bathing water season between May and September each year. A classification for each bathing water is calculated annually based on samples from the previous four years. These classifications are, from best to worst:

Excellent – the highest, cleanest seas
Good – generally good water quality
Sufficient – the water meets minimum standards
Poor – the water has not met the new minimum standards. Work is planned to improve bathing waters not yet reaching Sufficient

If water is classified as poor, then a sign advising against bathing will be displayed. However the beach remains open for people to enjoy.

Thanet Designated Bathing Area Grade


Minnis Bay – Excellent


Viking Bay – Good

Botany Bay – Good

Stone Bay – Excellent

Joss Bay – Good


Fulsam Rock – Excellent

Main Sands – Excellent

Westbrook Bay – Excellent

Walpole Bay – Good


Main Sands –  Good

Western Undercliff – Good


St Mildred’s Bay – Excellent

West Bay – Excellent


Find the Southern Water and Environment Agncy Beauty of the Beach campaign here  https://www.southernwater.co.uk/water-for-life/our-bathing-waters