SEVERAL bathing beaches in the Vale of Glamorgan have received a marine charity’s top water quality award after the driest summer since 2003.

The Marine Conservation Society recommends 109 Welsh beaches as having excellent water quality for taking a dip including Cold Knap, Barry and Whitmore Bay and Jackson's Bay, both on Barry Island.

The beaches are highlighted in the annual ‘Good Beach Guide’, launched online on Tuesday, April 15, by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

MCS recommended 109 out of 152 (71.7 per cent) Welsh beaches tested during last summer as having excellent water quality – that’s 11 more than the previous year.

There was also one less failure than the previous year, with just four beaches tested last summer failing to reach minimum water quality standards.

In the UK overall, 538 out of 734 (73 per cent) beaches tested were recommended as having excellent water quality. In the North East and South East of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland there were no failures at all meaning all of their monitored beaches reached minimum bathing water standards.

MCS Wales Progamme Manager, Gill Bell, says she hopes the latest figures will be a boost to tourism in Wales after several previously wet summers which led to a drop in bathing water quality with pollution running into the sea from rural and urban areas and overloaded sewers.

Gill Bell said: "It’s great news that we are able to recommend so many beaches for excellent water quality and it shows just how good Welsh beaches can be. The main challenge now is maintaining these standards, whatever the weather.

"Most people don’t realise what a big impact the weather can have on bathing water quality, but this has really been highlighted in the last few years. 2008, 2009 and 2012 were, according to the Met Office, amongst the wettest summers on record since 1910, and fewer UK bathing waters met minimum and higher water quality standards because of increased pollution running off rural and urban areas and overloaded sewers."

By the end of the 2015 bathing season, all designated bathing waters must meet the new minimum ‘Sufficient’ standard due to the revised EU Bathing Water Directive. This will be around twice as stringent as the current minimum standard and means that some beaches will need to do more to make the grade in the future which could include reducing pollution from sewage discharges, agricultural run-off and urban diffuse pollution, fixing mis-connected sewers and putting in place more steps to help dog owners clean up after their pets.

Beaches which don’t meet the ‘Sufficient’ standard at the end of 2015 will have to display signs warning against bathing in the sea from the start of the bathing season in 2016.

This year 13 Welsh beaches featured at will be linked to Natural Resources Wales daily pollution forecasts which will indicate when there may be an increased risk of pollution due to heavy rainfall.

"Visitors to the Good Beach Guide will now be able to see really up to date information. We’ve supported the development of forecast systems that provide information about when water quality is likely to be temporarily poor.

"But these predictions are no replacement for improvements and so D?r Cymru Welsh Water and local authorities must continue to improve sewerage infrastructure and reduce diffuse pollution so that eventually we will only need such warnings during and after exceptionally wet weather," said Gill Bell.

MCS says bathers and beachgoers in Wales should vote with their feet by bathing only at beaches recommended in the Good Beach Guide to maintain pressure on D?r Cymru Welsh Water, Natural Resources Wales, and local councils to tackle the sources of bathing water pollution.