Scientists from the University of Stirling have launched a website to share knowledge about techniques for the monitoring of water pollution along the UK shoreline.
Stirling researchers Dr David Oliver and Melanie van Niekerk helped set up Delivering Healthy Water, to promote knowledge exchange between scientists and anyone interested in bathing water quality.
The site, www.deliveringhealthywater.net, is already of value to groups such as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and will also be of interest to the wider public who value bathing waters for recreational activity.
The number of designated bathing waters failing to reach sufficient microbiological standards is set to rise in the UK in 2015, with the introduction of stringent standards associated with a revised Bathing Water Directive from the European Union.
Debates over the suitability of traditional but slow methods versus fast new quantification tools to determine levels of pollution may add an extra layer of complexity for regulators to grapple with in the future.
The project, led by Stirling and supported by Lancaster University and Aberystwyth University, brings together cross-disciplinary expertise from academic, regulatory, and policy communities and campaign groups.
Principal Investigator, Dr Oliver, said: "The project addresses a critical debate among those interested in bathing water quality around the world. Outputs from the project will be important for the public, scientists and a wide variety of agencies.
"The timing of this project is paramount because new molecular approaches are yet to offer a perfect solution to the measurement of microbial water quality. There is scope to set a UK agenda for assessing the risks and benefits of moving from current tried and tested approaches to new methods.
"In order to understand, identify and debate promising new tools for regulatory monitoring it is essential to bring together experts from across academic and regulatory organisations.
"The challenge is to establish an agreed evidence-base to underpin informed decision-making in the short to medium term. Our knowledge exchange project seeks to understand how best to do this effectively."
The Delivering Healthy Water website is a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded project.