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Why heavy rain can affect bathing water quality

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Heavy rain can affect bathing water quality when sources of pollution are washed into rivers and the sea. This can include pollution from farms, roads and combined sewer overflows.

Read on for some useful facts about heavy rain and bathing water quality:

1. Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are the legacy of older combined sewer systems where sewage and surface water are removed in the same pipe

2. They act as a legal safety valve, helping homes from being flooded during intense or prolonged rainfall by temporarily discharging into watercourses and eventually the sea. The discharge is very diluted and the impact is temporary

3. CSOs have to comply with strict European legislation and are regulated by the Environment Agency

4. To remove them altogether would cost billions - there are estimated to be around 20,000-30,000 CSOs across the UK - and customer bills would increase significantly

5. Clean Sweep transformed bathing waters in the South West by adding 40 sewage treatment works and the equivalent of 86 Olympic-sized swimming pools of extra storm water storage, at a cost of £2billion

6. Before Clean Sweep, almost 40% of the region's homes routinely spilled untreated raw sewage into the sea

7. Our voluntary, award-winning BeachLive service provides free alerts on sewage overflow activity so informed decisions can be taken. We provide this data free of charge to Surfers Against Sewage for their 'Safer Seas Service'

8. The Environment Agency has developed a pollution risk forecast system to give a daily assessment of the water quality risk at a number of bathing waters. This will allow bathers to make an informed choice of whether to bathe before they enter the water. Sites covered by the system can be found on the Bathing Water Data Explorer

9. There is lots you can do to help protect bathing water quality at your favourite beach - check out the EA's excellent infographic here. By disconnecting their downpipe from the combined system you can help reduce the impact of heavy rain on the combined sewerage system, and you can reduce blockages by binning fat, oil, grease and wet wipes

10. We spent £20million this year to deliver even cleaner seas at seven locations in Devon and Cornwall, and further significant improvements to bathing water quality are planned for 2015 -2020

Read the Environment Agency's factsheet about the Red River at Godrevy on the right.

Published: 24 July 2015

For further information please contact:

Press Office
South West Water
www: www.southwestwater.co.uk/contactus

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