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What is it about?

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Bathing waters in the South West of England have been transformed thanks to Clean Sweep. They are among the best in Europe and now in a step further we have launched Beach Live.

Since June 2011, Beach Live has offered live information on potential risks to bathing water quality caused by overflows in the public sewage network.

The service currently includes live feeds from 48 beaches and profiles for a further 36 popular beaches across the region.

We plan to make further upgrades, including more beaches, later this year.

Information and warnings come from monitors in South West Water's network. We cannot measure other sources of pollution such as dog fouling, agricultural and highway run-off and discharges from private sewers. For detailed information about other factors which can affect bathing water quality please visit the Advice and help pages.

What do the symbols mean?

The system works by offering live information to beach users in the form of 'blue' and 'amber' alerts. The interactive map will show either 'amber', 'blue' or 'maintenance' symbols over a bathing water.

An 'amber' icon appears when an overflow event occurs which could significantly affect bathing water quality. The 'amber' is triggered when an overflow operates for more than a specified duration in a rolling 12 hour period.

The specified duration at each bathing water is based upon Environment Agency's assessments of significant flow and has been agreed with key partners including Surfers Against Sewage. They may differ at each bathing water due to the position, length and diameter of the overflows and other local factors.

The bathing water will return to 'blue' where there have been no further significant overflows at the bathing water in the next 12 hours.

At a few locations where an overflow would have to last for many hours to reach the significance trigger, we have decided to issue notification warnings after just one hour of an overflow. They will be still listed as 'blue' until turning 'amber' when they reach the significance threshold. Again, they will return to 'blue' when there has been no further significant overflows in the following 12 hours.

'Maintenance' symbols will appear when monitors are being checked or repaired.

We also have introduced a 'red flag' to indicate when a beach has been closed due to other circumstances such as particularly dangerous currents or oil spills.

factors affecting bathing water quality

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