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Part of River Wharfe at Ilkley becomes first river bathing site in England

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People standing on the green banks of the River Wharfe near Ilkley
People standing on the green banks of the River Wharfe near Ilkley

Today (22 December) there is widespread coverage of our announcement that the River Wharfe will be added to the list of bathing waters in England from 2021, with articles in the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Times and Daily Mail. The announcement was also welcomed by regional titles, including Yorkshire Post, Northern Echo, Telegraph & Argus, Craven Herald, Lancashire Telegraph and Ilkley Gazette.

The new status means that the Environment Agency will regularly take samples from the river to measure bacteria levels, helping to ensure the water is cleaner and safer for swimmers. Monitoring will start from May 2021.

At the same time Yorkshire Water has announced a new partnership to improve water quality in the Wharfe, working with the Environment Agency, Bradford Council, National Farmers Union, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and landowners upstream of Ilkley.

The announcement follows a public consultation earlier this year, following the formal application from the Ilkley Clean River Campaign. It prompted responses from a wide range of interested parties, including Ilkley residents, NGOs, conservation groups and Yorkshire Water. In total there were 1073 responses, the largest to date for a proposed bathing water designation, with 998 respondents in favour of making the site a designated bathing water area.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

The residents of Ilkley and the surrounding area have shown their overwhelming appreciation for the River Wharfe as an asset to enjoy and protect. I am delighted that this stretch of river will be the first river to host a designated bathing water site.

Unfortunately, we all know that water quality won’t change overnight. It will take time and we need farmers and businesses to commit to achieve the necessary improvements. I am pleased to see Yorkshire Water stepping forward with new proposals today to help move things in the right direction.

In 2019, 98.3 per cent of England’s bathing waters met the minimum bathing water standard and for the first time since the relevant regulations were brought into force, more than 70 per cent of bathing waters achieved the highest standard of Excellent.

We encourage anyone wishing to swim in rivers, lakes or the sea to check the Environment Agency’s bathing water data explorer before you go:

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  1. Comment by John Baxter posted on

    If Yorkshire Water was charged daily for the number of days that untreated sewage was discharged to a water course in Yorkshire, and it cost them more than it would have to not discharge, I can assure you that Ben Roche and company would soon be fixing their inadequacies to quell the noises from shareholders who saw erosion of dividends.
    The time to clean up is long overdue......clean up or move over ......let the relative public authorities solve the issues and send the bills to the water companies.

  2. Comment by John Baxter posted on

    A national disgrace, and a tragedy for Yorkshire in that of all our rivers the best thing that the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water and its investors can come up with is One little stretch of the River Wharfe that passes a lower E. coli count......even though YW has been discharging out of consent levels of effluent for over 50% of the year......come on Ben Roche.....earn your corn and get this mess in my county cleaned up because as you know and as I know the EA is not going to and your lenders will be reluctant to.