It sounds pretty shocking, doesn’t it? On page five today we reveal how swimming in the Solent off Southsea beach could be banned because of new European water quality regulations.
The worst-case scenario is that signs could go up warning people that to venture into the water would be unsafe.
People have gone for a dip in the waves between South Parade Pier and Clarence Pier for generations. Whether a local or a visitor, it’s one of the pleasures of spending a sunny day at the seaside.
Yet the EU could put a stop to it if the ‘poor’ quality of tested water does not improve by the time new pollution regulations called the Bathing Water Directive come into force in 2015.
That could have serious implications for the city’s hugely important tourism industry.
If you were being told that the water contained a level of bacteria that was not considered safe for swimming, would you still go in or stay away?
The concern here is that, as a spokesman for Southern Water rightly says, the sea off Southsea hasn’t necessarily got worse or more polluted.
What has changed is that the requirements to be classified as excellent are tougher – and are likely to get tougher still in two years’ time.
There’s speculation that two leaking sewage pipes at South Parade Pier could have played a significant part in the recent test results. That would make sense as there are no problems with water pollution at Eastney or in the section between Blue Reef and Clarence Pier.
Southern Water has said the leaks will be fixed in the coming weeks and we have to take the company at its word.
Of course it’s disappointing to hear that the Solent is not as clean as it could be.
But this looks like a temporary problem in a particular area and we must keep a sense of perspective.
A lot of work has gone into improving water quality – and it’s important to remember that not a single person has been reported as falling ill as a result of swimming in the area of sea in question.