Designation of an area of the River Wharfe at Ilkley as a bathing water

Closed 2 Oct 2020

Opened 7 Aug 2020


The Bathing Water Regulations (S.I.2013/1675) ("the Regulations") define a bathing water as a surface water where "...the Secretary of State expects a large number of people to bathe, having regard in particular to past trends and any infrastructure or facilities provided, or other measures taken, to promote bathing at those waters."   The objective of designating a beach or inland water as a bathing water is to protect bathers' health by monitoring for intestinal enterococci and E.coli in the water. The Environment Agency (EA) takes water quality samples during the bathing season, which in England runs from 15 May to 30 September. 

The monitoring data are used to make annual water quality classifications of Excellent, Good, Sufficient or Poor. If the water quality does not meet the standards set by the Regulations, the EA will investigate the sources of pollution to identify remedial measures that can be put in place. Bathing waters may be affected by pollution from water company assets such as Combined Sewer Overflows or by diffuse pollution caused by run-off from agricultural and urban areas. 

The Ilkley Clean River Group, with the support of Ilkley Town Council and Bradford City Council, has applied for a stretch of the River Wharfe at Ilkley to be designated as a bathing water. The application shows that the area between Old Bridge and Beanlands Island in Ilkley is used for swimming and paddling.  Bathing waters do not have a defined limit and if the site is designated as a bathing water the EA would determine a sampling point  within this area on the basis of where the greatest number of bathers go into the water. The annual classification would reflect the water quality at this point.

In considering a proposal for a site to be designated as a bathing water, we look at the number of bathers and the facilities provided by the local authority or private site owner to promote and support bathing.  Adults and children swimming, and children paddling, are counted as bathers. We have not defined a "large number" because a bathing water may be a beach in a busy seaside resort or a much smaller site that attracts a large number of bathers in relation to its size.

The consultation document that is attached (see under "Related") summarises the evidence that has been provided to support this application.

Why your views matter

We are seeking your views on whether a stretch of the river Wharfe in Ilkley should be added to the list of designated bathing waters. The consultation document summarises the evidence that has been provided about the level of usage at the site and the facilities that are provided to support bathing. Any additional evidence can be submitted in your response.

The figures in the consultation document focus on the number of people bathing in the river: adults swimming, and children swimming and paddling. Children who are paddling are counted as bathers because they are more likely than adults to ingest water while paddling.

You can respond by:

  • using the online survey (see below)
  • by email:
  • by post:
  • Consultation Co-ordinator
    Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
    Kings Pool
    Foss House
    1-2 Peasholme Green
    YO1 7PX


  • Environmental campaigners
  • Recreation sector
  • Water/water Industry sector
  • Environmental Health Officers


  • Water quality
  • Bathing waters
  • Sewerage