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Bathing Water Quality

We have a beautiful coastline and numerous lovely beaches. Many of these are 'Designated Bathing Waters' which are regularly sampled.

All of our Designated Bathing Waters currently reach the required standards.

About Designated Bathing Waters

Popular beaches and inland bathing sites are designated as bathing waters, because they attract large numbers of bathers.

Swimfo (part of the Environment Agency) reports on water quality results at these sites. If the water does not meet minimum standards this is investigated and remediation measures are recommended.

This is to help protect public health from pollution hazards.

For more information about Swimfo and their work with bathing waters, please see their website.

Where are the Bathing Water Beaches in the South Hams?

The maps below show the Bathing Water beaches in the South Hams. Each map has a link which reads "view larger version." This will open a larger map in a new browser window.


★ = Sufficient

★★ = Good

★★★ = Excellent



Bigbury on Sea North


Bigbury on Sea South


Blackpool Sands






Dartmouth Castle


Hope Cove


Mill Bay




Salcombe North Sands


Salcombe South Sands


Slapton Sands Monument


Slapton Sands Torcross


Thurlestone North


Thurlestone South




What role does the Council have with Beaches?

  • South Hams District Council is the 'controller' of some of the designated bathing water beaches,
  • We must provide information about the bathing water, including warning where there is a risk to health due to pollution.
  • If possible, we must take action to deal with pollution if this occurs

Our Environmental Health Section must protect public health as much as possible.

The following is a summary of our role in bathing water quality:

  • Arrange emergency signage at all designated bathing waters during pollution incidents. This could be contamination affecting bathing water quality. It may a potential risk to bathers' health from bacteria associated with sewage, waste, and certain seaweeds/algae.
  • Liaise with South West Water, the Environment Agency, and beach owners regarding poor water quality. During pollution incidents, agree on management of the pollution and provide any necessary help.
  • Advise the owners of private beaches of their obligations under the Bathing Water Regulations.
  • Make sure that relevant information on the designated bathing waters is available for the public online and at the beaches.
  • Arrange removal of waste from Council controlled designated bathing water beaches as necessary.
  • Enforcement of other legislation to deal with pollution at private beaches that are not designated.

Environment Agency - Bathing Water Data Explorer

The Environment Agency has an interactive website that includes to most up-to-date information on all designated bathing beaches, historic information and background on the locality.

View Bathing Water Data


  • Bigbury-on- Sea South, Blackpool Sands, Bovisand, Challaborough, Mothecombe, Salcombe South, Salcombe North, and Slapton (Monument) are all linked to South West Water's Beachlive system.
  • Beachlive provides real-time information by text message on the website about bathing water quality at specific beaches.
  • By providing an alert about sewage spills or other pollution incidents, and where a warning against using the water has been issued, users can make an informed decision about which beach to visit.
  • South Hams District Council has signed up to the system for Salcombe South Sands and when we are alerted of an incident, the Harbour Master will visit as soon as possible to put up a warning on the beach.

Go to Beach Live

How can I avoid health risks at bathing waters?

Bathing water at South Hams' beaches is generally good to excellent, but contaminants could still potentially get into seawater and stream water, particularly after heavy rainfall. Try to follow this advice:

  • Do not swallow seawater or the water from beach streams
  • Try not to splash sea or stream water into your mouth
  • Wash hands using soap and water, making sure all wet sand is removed from hands before eating
  • Observe local beach safety advice.

Find out more about how to swim healthy in open water.

Sewage or Algae?

Every year we receive many reports of suspected sewage pollution that are in fact the breakdown of algal blooms

Algae blooms are easy to mistake for sewage, but foam on the water in coastal locations is more likely to be caused by algae than by sewage. Some algae blooms can be toxic, so it's best to avoid them.

The Environment Agency has produced this useful blog that can help you to tell the difference, and what you should do if you do see pollution at the coast.

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