Down Beaches Achieve Water Quality Recognition

Down beaches have scored well in the latest Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs survey. But Newcastle has only a ‘sufficient quality’ award.

Mournes Sinn Féin Councillor Willie Clarke speaking following the release of the bathing water quality latest figures from the Department , has welcomed the success of beaches across County Down receiving top awards for water quality.

Cllr Clarke said: “I am delighted that  Kilclief, Ballyhornan, Tyrella, Murlough County Down, and Cranfield Bay in our Newry Mourne and Down council area beaches received an excellent quality standard, and this is an outstanding result. I am disappointed though that Newcastle has just received a ‘sufficient quality’ standard despite major investment by NI Water in the Newcastle treatment works.

“The extended treatment works has been equipped with a new UV treatment stream which was brought on line at the end of May 2013.

Cllr Willie Clarke has called for an effort to clear up a section of Newcastle beach as an area for tourists and to improve water quality.

“There is an onus on Newry Mourne and Down Council to work with our statutory partners to improve the water quality. The dry warm bathing season should have helped prevent pollutants from being flushed down our rivers and out to sea.
“We need to establish what were the reasons for Newcastle’s water quality to have only secured a ‘sufficient’ water quality standard. The tourism industry relies on its beaches and water quality is an integral part of this tourism strategy. More needs to be done to ensure this is as good as it can and should be.”

Cllr Clarke added: “High quality bathing waters and beaches are a critical factor in the enhancement of tourism for our local economy and our Council area needs to be well up the league across the board in all its beaches.  Council have requested a meeting with NIEA marine division to discuss a recreational stretch of beach in Newcastle, to include sand replenishment. The issue in regards Newcastle’s bathing Water quality will be discussed at this meeting also.

“This is an issue that I have been lobbying Council for many years and is close to my heart. Newry Mourne and Down District Council needs to lead by example in delivering a quality beach visitor experience. The Council need to maintain a stretch of recreational beach, close to the promenade, this would require some levelling and the removal of debris, which will allow families to enjoy a safe and enhanced seaside experience.”


Northern Ireland bathing waters amongst the best in Europe. 

Northern Ireland continues to enjoy some of the best bathing water quality in Europe, with more than half classified as “Excellent” according to the latest figures from the Department of the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

All 26 bathing waters around our coast have met strict European standards for quality. Sixteen of the 26 bathing waters were classified as ’Excellent’, a prerequisite for a coveted Blue Flag Award. A further six met the ‘Good’ standards and the rest met the ‘Sufficient’ standards.

David Small, Head of DAERA’s Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group, welcomed the publication of the 2018 results.

“This is a superb result for our beaches, especially given the changeable weather our coastline is often subject to, but more importantly, it’s good news for our holidaymakers and bathers who can confidently enjoy our fabulous beaches,” he said.

“We take great pride in these results and know that maintaining them will take a sustained effort. We will continue to work to reduce water pollution to keep our bathing waters clean and safe.

“I am delighted to see that Ballyholme has moved from “Poor” to “Sufficient” for the first time since 2016. This is excellent news and is most likely the result of the extensive work we have carried out with NI Water, in both catchment improvements and on the sewerage infrastructure upgrades in Bangor.

“Our beaches are a priceless resource to tourism and to the health and well-being of our local communities and visitors alike. It is imperative that we continue to strive for the very highest of standards,” added Mr Small.


NI Water Welcomes Bathing Water Quality Results  

NI Water has attended this year’s Better Beaches Forum held at Lisburn where it was announced that all 26 beaches tested have met the European standards for bathing water quality.

Angela Halpenny, NI Water’s Head of Environmental Regulation comments, “Protecting the  environment is an important part of our business and we play a key role in delivering 570 million litres of drinking water and collecting and treating 340 million litres of wastewater every day.

 “NI Water is delighted to hear that all 26 designated bathing waters in NI have passed in 2018 and is proud of our role in helping achieve this.

 “Delivery of recent sewer network investments worth around £11.5 million in the Bangor area have undoubtedly contributed to ensuring the bathing water in this area is no longer of poor quality.

 “We cannot become complacent however; we must continue to push forward with further investment to ensure continued improvements are made. Our business is essential to support a thriving population, a growing economy and a flourishing environment.

 “To continue to do so however, we must be adequately funded. NI Water is not immune from public expenditure cuts and uncertainty over funding. This places progress on efficiencies at risk and could result in tangible impacts on service delivery, the local economy and the environment.

Angela continued, “The public also has a key role to play by respecting our sewer network and disposing of bathroom waste in rubbish bins, not down the toilet.  Inappropriate items being flushed down the toilet often make their way through the system and onto our beaches or cause serious blockages.

 “Wastewater treatment works and sewerage systems are not designed to deal with items such as wipes, cotton buds and sanitary items.   The advice is simple – ‘Bin it, don’t flush it.’ ”


The results are:

Excellent Quality.

Magilligan (Benone)

  • Magilligan (Downhill, Castlerock, Portstewart, Portrush Mill – (West), Portrush Whiterock, Portballintraem, Ballycastle, Helen’s Bay, Groomsport, Millisle, Kilclief, Ballyhornan, Tyrella, Murlough County Down, Cranfield Bay. 

Good Quality.

  • Ballygally, Brown’s Bay, Crawfordsburn, Carnlough, Portrush Curran (East), Cloughey.

Sufficient Quality.

  • Waterfoot. Ballywalter, Ballyholme, Newcastle,

The results were announced at the Better Beaches Forum whose members include DAERA, NI Water, coastal local authorities, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, the National Trust, Surfers Against Sewage and some coastal community groups.

The Forum works to improve water quality, improve beach cleanliness, manage facilities and keep the public better informed.

The published 2018 Bathing Water Compliance results are available at: