New figures are showing that Northern Ireland continues to enjoy some of the best bathing water quality in Europe.
Around the coast, 22 of the 23 identified bathing waters met the strict European standards for bathing water quality. Of these, 11 were classed as ‘excellent’ with a further nine classed as ‘good’.
Commenting on the figures, Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Michelle McIlveen stated that: “The water environment in Northern Ireland is so important to our society. Our beaches are paramount to health and well-being and a reflection of the wider coastal environment. They help to improve fitness as well as providing economic benefits through the promotion of tourism. I am pleased to see today that Northern Ireland’s bathing waters have performed so well.
“We can sometimes take water for granted, whether it’s the water that comes out of our taps, water we use for recreation or water that is an essential part of our business operations. It is important that we continue to work hard to protect our water quality.”
In 2015, new standards were introduced for bathing waters which are approximately twice as stringent as the old benchmarks.
Minister McIlveen said: “Northern Ireland’s bathing water monitoring programme has been running for over 25 years. In that time bathing water quality has continually improved. The latest results give cause for optimism as we look to add new waters to the scheme.
“Our water environment is improving, and I applaud the efforts which have taken us thus far, but we cannot be complacent. It is imperative that we continuously work to resolve the issues within our control and mitigate against those outside it.”
Of the waters tested, only Ballyholme will be classed as having ‘Poor’ bathing water quality for the 2016 bathing season. Of the 20 times it was tested, 17 were rated excellent. But on three occasions, each as a result of heavy rainfall, a ‘poor’ reading was recorded.
The Minister added: “Ballyholme serves as a reminder that no matter how hard we work to make improvements, there is no room for complacency. Overall however, our beaches remain some of the best in Europe for water quality and I am committed to protecting and enhancing them wherever possible.”