BeachLive out of season service FAQs
All your questions answered regarding the out of season service.
- Does BeachLive run beyond the official bathing season?
- Why did you turn Beach Live off at the beginning of November?
- Why can't you leave it switched on while you are upgrading it?
- What about surfers and other water users who continue to use the sea all year round?
- How have you improved bathing water quality?
- What will happen to Beach Live in 2020?
Yes. In 2020 we extended our voluntary BeachLive service on all the bathing waters on BeachLive in Devon and Cornwall until 4 November. This follows the RNLI’s reporting of increased beach and water use in the south west and their extended cover to 1 November 2020 on 27 beaches, in order to support the wider tourism economy.
The service needs to undergo redevelopment and maintenance before being switched on again in time for the 2021 bathing water season.
We do this over the winter months because this is when the fewest people use the sea.
We have done this in previous years. However, in common with other water companies, we now switch it off over the winter. This is partly because of the amount of resource required to run the service compared to the relatively small number of people who will continue to use it during the winter.
It is important to remember that stormwater overflows are just one factor with the potential to affect bathing water quality. Bathing water quality is also affected by urban drainage, agricultural run-off, birds and other wildlife, private sewers and misconnections - homes wrongly connected to surface water drainage instead of public foul sewers - as well as South West Water's infrastructure.
The Environment Agency's Pollution Risk Forecast (PRF) system, which alerts the public when certain bathing waters may be affected by rainfall, is also discontinued outside of the bathing water season.
In the absence of PRF warnings BeachLive remains the only 'real-time' warning process that can relay potential weather related risks on water quality. Therefore, in the absence of any other complementary warning systems, and despite EA public advice on wider risks to bathing water quality, the public's focus remains, perhaps unsurprisingly, on stormwater overflows because they are the only source for which proactively warnings are made, to the detriment of any understanding of the wider catchment sources and regulatory issues.
Many local authorities, whose responsibility it is to put signs at beaches as a result of BeachLive alerts and / or pollution risk forecasts, are also unable to justify resourcing this activity at a time when fewer people are using the sea.
However, permanent information about bathing water quality is on display at every beach and also available on the Environment Agency's website.
Please also remember that lifeguards do not routinely patrol beaches outside the summer season.
Over the past two decades we have invested over £2billion in our Clean Sweep programme, providing new sewage treatment facilities around the South West peninsula and closing 250 crude sewage outfalls, providing treatment and building over 222,100 cubic metres (the equivalent of 89 Olympic-sized swimming pools) of extra storm storage.
We also have additional disinfection at 65 of our works - the highest level of treatment available - more than any other water company.
In 2014/15, South West Water invested a further £20million to deliver even cleaner seas at nine beaches in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall which were considered to be at risk of not meeting the new EU bathing water directive.
In addition, our business plan for 2020-25 includes our largest environmental programme in 15 years, with more than £190million of additional measures to protect bathing, shellfish and river water quality.
We were also the first water company to develop a real-time stormwater overflow alert service.
So we are very aware of the vital role our beautiful beaches and clean seas play in the region's economy.
BeachLive will be switched on again in time for the start of the 2021 bathing water season, if not before.
We aim to increase the number of beaches covered by the service, but this does need the agreement of the beach managers.