Bathing waters designation

The Bathing Water Directive is concerned with the quality of bathing waters, including the sea, inland lochs and rivers.

What is a bathing water and how is one identified?

The directive states that a bathing water is one where a large number of people are expected to bathe and a permanent bathing prohibition, or permanent advice against bathing, has not been issued.

Generally, a ‘large’ number of bathers (150 or so people) will be found at popular, well-used beaches and lakes where bathing is encouraged and facilities for bathers may have been provided.

For a new bathing water to be identified, an applicant should be able to provide evidence that the site is being used by a large number of bathers, usually through photographs or a survey of bather numbers. In addition, evidence that the relevant authorities or land owners are actively seeking to promote bathing at the site will be taken into consideration.

In Scotland there are currently 84 designated bathing waters. Twenty of these were added to the list in 2008 using information from a Scottish Government funded aerial survey and beach user counts by SEPA and Keep Scotland Beautiful. An up-to-date list of bathing waters for Scotland can be found on our Profiles page.

The application process

Any organisation or individual can put forward a bathing water to be considered for designation. The applicant will need to provide good information about the number of beach users, both in and around the water, throughout the bathing season. This is usually in the form of photographic evidence of people in the water or a survey of user numbers.

Download a bathing waters application form.

Once the application and supporting evidence has been received, it will be considered by a multi-sector panel, chaired by SEPA, who will make recommendations to the Scottish Government’s Minister for Environment. The Minister will then decide which beaches are designated before the next bathing water season.

Submissions for potential bathing waters need to be received by the last working day in March. In future years this may be earlier.

Further enquiries

For enquiries to SEPA on any aspects on bathing waters please contact us.

Information about bathing waters is also available from the Scottish Government and Keep Scotland Beautiful.