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Protecting Wild Waters

At Hattiers we are extremely lucky to work, live and play just a stone's throw away from our stunning coastline on The Flete Estate in Mothecombe, Devon. We believe that Users of rivers and lakes deserve the same high standard of protection as those who surf, sail and swim at the coast and support The Flete Estate's call to #DemandDesignation.

Rivers are being shamefully neglected when it comes to legal protection. But more designated river bathing waters will mean water quality must be monitored for harmful bacteria and viruses, and action taken to address this harmful pollution.

The Problem

Only 14% of the UKs rivers reach good ecological status and none reach good chemical status. One of the major sources of pollution is from sewage. Over 90% of all sewer outflows in England and Wales discharge directly into rivers. In 2021 alone over 2.6 million hours of sewage discharged directly into rivers and seas across 372,533 recorded instances.

With increasing popularity for the public using inland blue spaces like rivers for swimming, paddling, kayaking and more, there is a serious threat in the population getting sick from sewage discharge. Recent consumer polling undertaken by Surfers Against Sewage found that of the one in six members of the British public that have tried wild swimming, 55% have subsequently fallen ill. Results also found that 52% of the British public are scared of swimming outside due to not knowing if the water is clean or not.

The solution - Inland Bathing Waters

We want to see an end to sewage pollution in rivers. Increasing the number of inland bathing waters will play a crucial role in ending sewage pollution across the UK. Official bathing water designation has been instrumental in improving coastal water quality over the last three decades. Since coastal bathing waters were introduced, the percentage of beaches meeting minimum water quality standards rose from 27% to 98%. There are currently 600 coastal bathing waters compared to just two on rivers.

Bathing water designation creates blue spaces where water quality is monitored for harmful bacteria and viruses, with legal obligations placed on industry to reduce sewage pollution near sites. As well as holding polluters to account, the sites also allow bathers to make informed decisions regarding their safety when entering blue spaces.

Supported by Surfers Against Sewage and the Protecting Wild Waters campaign, The Flete Estate, Hattiers and a group of local beach goers and residents are applying to DEFRA for Bathing Water Designation at Coastguards’ Beach.

We share concerns with local residents and beach users within the Erme catchment about the water quality of our river and the impact this has on our community's health, local wildlife and the local environment. Achieving designation will be an important step in protecting water users and those that enjoy spending time around our river. Once a location has been given this status, the Environment Agency will monitor the water quality at this site, informing bathers of how safe the water is to enter and take steps to improve it if it falls below standard. This enables people to make an informed choice about going into the water. Further information at: Bathing waters - GOV.UK (

Why Coastguard's Beach?

Coastguards’ Beach and the surrounding estuary links the river Erme to Mothecombe Beach and the sea. The site is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and part of the Erme Estuary Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) Erme Estuary Marine Conservation Zone factsheet. Nearby Mothecombe beach has been rated ‘Good’ by the Environment Agency (EA) since 2016 (Mothecombe Bathing waters data). Coastguards’ Beach and its surrounding estuary are used by swimmers, bathers, dippers, paddlers, walkers, runners, paddleboarders, kayakers, surfers and windsurfers all year round. The SW Coast Path crosses the estuary, and the beach is popular with dog walkers, horse riders and builders of sandcastles,

and yet...

EA data from 2022 tells us that in terms of hours sewage spills Mothecombe was ranked the tenth highest beach in the country. This is an indication that the water quality in the river affects the whole estuary and its beaches, which still suffer from intermittent levels of pollution flowing down the Erme. It is also affected by local weather conditions and run off from all types of land use.

The creation of over 600 coastal bathing waters around the UK has led to 98% of these beaches meeting minimum water quality standards, up from just 27% in the 1990s. Now, the same action must happen for rivers.

How Can You Help?

Support the application and complete the public consultation via the link below.

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