With the rise in wild swimming, it's important to inform swimmers about the quality of Oxford’s rivers and protect them from pollution.

Oxford has one designated bathing water site at Wolvercote Mill Stream, currently classified as Poor.

What is Designated Bathing water status?

A Designated Bathing Water Status site is popular for swimming, regardless of its current water quality. These sites must reach a minimum ‘sufficient’ bacteria level from May to September. However, this doesn't guarantee safety from all pollution hazards.

These sites are monitored to assess water quality and pollution risks. They are reviewed annually, and if there's no improvement in five years, they may be de-designated.

What happens when a site is designated as bathing bater?

Once designated, the Environment Agency samples the water weekly, testing for intestinal Enterococci and E. coli. Results are posted about five days after testing.

At the end of the May-September bathing season, the site gets an overall classification from Excellent to Poor. The Council displays signage with this classification.

The Environment Agency works to improve water quality, and the Council informs the public about current classifications to help them make informed swimming decisions.

Check the bathing water quality in Oxford

Thames Water’s map provides near real-time information on storm overflow releases. This helps you understand when and where overflows are active.

More data is available on the Thames Water website.

Pollution risk forecasts

No active pollution risk forecasts exist for Oxford, but incidents can still occur due to factors like livestock bacteria, sewage, and urban drainage. If these cause a temporary water quality drop, a pollution risk warning will be issued.

Improving Oxford’s bathing water quality

Sewage pollution, especially from storm overflows, significantly affects river water quality. The Environment Agency is investigating bacteria sources at Wolvercote Mill Stream from June 2022 to 2024.

This will guide short-term improvements and long-term actions to enhance Bathing Water Quality. Thames Water's Oxford Rivers document outlines their infrastructure upgrade plans for Oxford.

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