Environment Agency: Bathing Water Directive database: Dataset
The Bathing Water Directive database contains details on coastal and inland bathing waters within England and Wales. It holds analysis data (within five microbiological and six physical-chemical parameters) on monitoring samples taken for each site which are then used to classify the bathing waters. The bathing season is from mid-May to end-September in England and Wales, but is shorter in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Bathing waters which are closed for a season are excluded for that year.
Data exists from 1988 onwards. Northern Ireland and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) data is not supplied by the Environment Agency, and is not included within this dataset.
The original hardware and operating software are not known. The database was originally designed using Microsoft Access version 2.0, but was later re-developed and updated to Access 97.
Logical structure and schema:This series contains one dataset, which is structured as three main data tables supported by 11 lookup tables. The main data tables contain details of bathing waters, records of compliance results, and a history of sample results.
How data was originally captured and validated: The bathing season (effectively the period to which bathing water standards apply) in England and Wales has been set as starting on 15 May and continuing until 30 September. The Environment Agency was required to commence sampling two weeks prior to the bathing season and to sample regularly throughout the season. Between 1 May and 30 September, data was normally collated weekly and input by Environment Agency staff. The minimum sampling frequency required in the Directive is at least once per fortnight, but the Environment Agency has a sampling policy of taking at least 20 samples during the bathing season. This is equivalent to one sample a week. Samples were taken at the same spot in the bathing water on each sampling occasion to ensure consistency. The sample point was set to reflect the areas regularly used by the highest density of bathers.
Analytical data was provided by UKAS accredited laboratories, and was statistically validated by Agency systems. Each sample was analysed for total coliforms, faecal coliforms and faecal streptococci. Coliform bacteria are a commonly-used bacterial indicator of sanitary quality of foods and water.
A measure of the transparency (or turbidity) of the water was also made. On each sampling occasion observations were also made for abnormal colour, mineral oils, surface active agents (man-made substances which cause foaming of the bathing water) and phenols (an industrial chemical). Further chemical analysis was performed if it was believed that these substances may be present in the bathing water. Each bathing water was sampled once per season for pH (a test for acidity). If the bathing waters have not complied with the mandatory coliform standards in the previous season then two samples are taken for salmonellae (a bacterial indicator from both animal and human sources) and two for enterovirus analysis (indicative of human sewage pollution).
The Bathing Water Directive database is maintained by the Environment Agency (EA) under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC). Prior to the establishment of the Environment Agency with the 1995 Environment Act it was maintained by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Defra still works closely with the Environment Agency in relation to the EA's work regarding water quality standards. The Environment Agency is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPD) of Defra, and an Assembly Sponsored Public Body of the National Assembly for Wales.
The Bathing Water Directive database was part of the Environment Agency's Water Information Management System (WIMS). WIMS was designed to hold completed analytical results of water samples and provide the Statutory Public Register for monitoring data, and some environmental permits. The data is used for EC Directive reporting, bathing water reporting, consent compliance, and to audit the sampling process itself. WIMS has not been transferred.
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