What happens after Bathing Water Designation?

Now that the River Cam at Sheep’s Green has become “Designated Bathing Water” the Environment Agency will start by monitoring the water quality every week during the bathing season to decide its official initial classification.

The bathing water season starts on 15 May, and on 14 May, the first “pre-season” test result for Sheeps Green was available on the Swiminfo website page for Sheep’s Green.

Both the E.Coli and the IE result would indicate “poor” water quality. This webpage explains how the Environment Agency interprets the results, but at simple level, an E.Coli reading of above 1000 is “considered elevated” and if continued would be likely to indicate a possible overall “poor” rating for the season.

When the City Council’s official bathing water signage is available it will include a QR code to the Sheep’s Green page of the swiminfo website so that swimmers can judge if they wish to swim. In the meantime we’ve provided a simple poster with the QR code at Sheep’s Green and other key spots, giving a link to these official test results as they’re released.

In future years, the City Council will put up an official signboard at Sheep’s Green informing people about the Bathing Water Quality, based on the test results from the previous year(s).   

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 have been likely to take much longer…. probably decades.

It’s going to take a while, but now we have got Bathing Water Designation, a cleaner Cam is within our grasp.