Website highlights cleanest north Norfolk beaches

A new online map showing water quality at over 500 beaches around the UK has been launched to make life easier for tourists seeking a clean stretch of beach to enjoy.

And of the 19 Norfolk and Suffolk beaches listed on the Environment Agency's new website, 15 have been awarded the highest possible cleanliness rating.

None of the beaches in the two counties fell below minimum standards set by the EU.

The site includes maps, photos and links to the latest water quality results - including the amount of sewage and bacteria present - which have been released to help the public make more informed choices about the best places to visit.

With an emergency overflow pipe west of the pier, the sand and shingle beach at Cromer still received the highest possible rating, as did Sea Palling which has been rated highly on water quality every year since 2002.

Sheringham was also given the highest rating.

Sea water can become polluted due to a range of problems including sewage outflows, farm waste or chemicals leaking to the coast or overflow from septic tanks.

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Even fast-flowing rivers can contaminate the sea when the reach the coast.

The Environment Agency has helped to invest �8bn of water company funding to upgrade the country's sewage system and reduce pollution over the past two decades, leading to large improvements in sea water quality.

But it claims that there is still more work to do and that it continues to measure pollution at each beach 20 times during the May to September bathing season.

Catherine Burbage, spokesman for the Environment Agency, said that although figures on water quality had been published previously, the data was not as easy to access as it is with the new system.

'People who want to go to a beach might want to know a bit more about the beach and what the quality of the water is like,' she said.

'It's just to make it easy for them. People can just get their information in a better format.

'In the east of England we've got some of the best beaches around the country,' she added.

Ed Mitchell, director of environment and business at the Environment Agency, said: 'Our new profiles provide the most comprehensive information yet on the cleanliness of bathing waters, helping the public to make more informed choices about the best locations to bathe.

'The Environment Agency is working hard to tackle all sources of pollution, alongside beach users, local authorities, farmers and water companies.'

For more information on the quality of local beaches visit the Environment Agency's website at