THE RIVER Avon in Fordingbridge has been designated as official bathing water.

It comes after 14 months of campaigning by the Fordingbridge Avon Bathers (FAB) group.

FAB wanted to highlight local water quality issues and ensure regulators can hold polluters to account. 

The FAB campaign has now been successful, and the site was one of 27 new sites announced by The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Now that the site is officially designated, the Environment Agency is responsible for testing the water quality during the bathing season – May to September.

The site will then receive a classification of Excellent, Good, Sufficient or Poor at the end of the bathing season as an outcome of the water quality testing.

Salisbury Journal: River Avon at Fordingbridge designated as an Official Bathing Water

Fordingbridge Town Council said: In October 2023 Fordingbridge Town Council formally supported the application for bathing water status on the River Avon at Fordingbridge Recreation Ground.

“A clear majority agreed that statutory water testing and the management plan required for designation would deliver clear benefits for residents and visitors alike and be a valuable step towards cleaning up our river for its many existing users.”

Salisbury Journal: Fordingbridge Recreational Ground

Testing of E.Coli throughout the 2023 bathing water season has shown that the Avon would fail to meet minimum standards for bathing water, receiving an equivalent of poor status. 

Following rainfall, or during the winter when combined sewer overflows are operating, levels of E.Coli are significantly higher. The Avon has the highest levels of protection afforded to any river in the country, being both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. 

Unfortunately, despite significant efforts from multiple organisations, the river fails to meet both standards.

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Bathing water status isn’t just about swimmers; it will help ensure the river is protected for all who enjoy it, from anglers to children paddling.

Salisbury Journal: River Avon

At present, only 14 per cent of the UK’s inland waterways are in a good ecological status, - partly due to pollution from untreated sewage and agricultural waste.

Supported by Surfers Against Sewage, an environmental charity that has been campaigning to end sewage pollution for more than 30 years, FAB is part of a movement of communities UK-wide who are using bathing water designation as a mechanism to drive up water quality standards.