Bathing water warning scheme for Hele Bay

Hele Bay, Ilfracombe.

Hele Bay, Ilfracombe. - Credit: Archant

Pilot predication scheme will let people know whether to dip their toe in the waters or not.

A scheme that predicts bathing water quality is being trialled at Hele Bay in Ilfracombe this summer.

From Monday (August 5), North Devon Council is beginning a pilot scheme, designed by the Environment Agency to let beach users know about the quality of the water.

It will see a sign erected at Hele and updated daily with water quality predictions, as provided by the Agency.

Hele Bay is one of 30 locations in England taking part in the pilot. It has been chosen because it suffers from short-term pollution caused by agricultural run-off following heavy rain.

It is hoped that as the bay is small, the water quality predictions should also be very accurate.

“This initiative is welcomed,” said executive member for the environment, Councillor Rodney Cann.

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“We know the water quality at Hele drops during heavy rain and this warning system will let potential bathers know when it’s better to stay out of the water.”

Local ward member, Councillor Mike Edmunds, added: “This pilot has only been made possible with the help of the community and residents have agreed to update the sign each day.

“By 10am the sign will display either a ‘smiley face’ to say no warnings have been issued, or a ‘don’t swim’ symbol to say water quality is likely to be poor and bathing is not advised.

“We don’t want to put people off from using the beach, because the water quality is generally fine. However, we do need to let people know if this isn’t expected to be the case. “

Jonathan Ponting from the Environment Agency said short-term pollution occurred when heavy rainfall washed bacteria from agriculture, urban runoff or sewage into the sea via rivers and streams.

He said they would also post warnings each day on the Bathing Water Data Explorer page of their website.

The pilot is in response to changes to the European Bathing Water Directive, which comes into force in 2015. Only designated ‘bathing beaches’ are affected by the changes. The trial at Hele will continue until September 30.

For more information about the trial or short-term pollution, call the Environment Agency on 03708 506506. You can also find the Environment Agency’s Bathing Water predictions at

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