What happens after Bathing Water Designation?

If the River Cam at Sheep’s Green becomes “Designated Bathing Water” in April 2024, the Environment Agency would start by monitoring the water quality every week during the 2024 bathing season to decide its official initial classification.  The bathing water season starts on 15 May.

Cam Valley Forum plans to provide a QR code at Sheep’s Green and other local swimming spots, giving a link to these official test results as they’re released (which is roughly once a week) so that swimmers can judge if they wish to swim.

In future years, the City Council would put up an official signboard at Sheep’s Green informing people about the Bathing Water Quality.   

We know from our own monitoring work over the last few years that the level of faecal indicator bacteria in the River Cam means that this initial classification will almost certainly be “Poor”, with “Bathing not advised” (although of course it’s still permitted)

Importantly, when there is Designated Bathing Water with a “Poor” water quality classification, this then acts as a statutory “Driver” requiring the water company to investigate the source of pollution and remedy it.

Anglian Water have confirmed to us that if the River Cam becomes “Designated Bathing Water” they will start by doing a “Source Apportionment” study to understand and uncover the causes of the problem. This will include looking at both their various assets (pipes, pumping stations and sewage works) and other 3rd party sources.

As Cam Valley Forum we will be very interested in the results of this Source Apportionment study.

We all expect that a big source of the problem will be the ageing and overloaded sewage infrastructure at Haslingfield.

Subject to the findings of the Source Apportionment study and approval of Anglian Water’s Business Plan by Ofwat they’re expecting to spend around £5M on improvements at Haslingfield, with work completed by 2027. The details of what needs to be done, will of course depend on what the source apportionment study discovers, but the overall aim is to improve the water quality in the River Cam at Sheep’s Green from Poor to Good

Without the statutory “Driver” of Bathing Water Designation, the improvements would be likely to take much longer…. maybe decades.

It’s going to take a while, but if we get Designation a cleaner Cam is within our grasp.

Do respond to Defra’s consultation by the deadline of 10 March