REGULAR testing of the water quality at the designated bathing site on the River Wharfe in Ilkley begins today and will be carried out until the end of September.

The testing is done by the Environment Agency at all designated bathing sites during the bathing water season which started today (Sunday, May 15).

Last year England’s first ever designated bathing water on a stretch of the river in Ilkley was classified as 'Poor'.

Throughout the bathing season the Environment Agency will issue warnings of any forecasted pollution risk on its Swimfo website. Signs are also put up by local councils at these swimming locations to inform bathers about any possible dips in quality as a result of factors like rainfall, wind and high tides.

In the autumn Defra will publish its classifications – Sufficient, Good, Excellent or Poor – for each designated bathing water site.

To help improve standards at the Ilkley bathing site on the River Wharfe, the Environment Agency is working with other organisations through the Dales to Vale Rivers Network - a collaboration between local authorities, landowners, Yorkshire Water, Wildlife Trusts, community groups and the Environment Agency, which is hosted by the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and coordinates research and actions that will improve water quality along the Rivers Wharfe and Lower Ouse.

Bacteria analysed at the Ilkley site during the last bathing season came from both human and animal sources (cattle and sheep), so the focus for the network is on tackling pollution from sewerage and agriculture.

Work is underway by Yorkshire Water to improve disinfection of waste water near the site, as part of £13 million investment in the area which will also include reducing spills from storm overflows.

Funding of around £200,000 has been secured by the Environment Agency to carry out more extensive investigations of what is impacting water quality in the River Wharfe over the next two years.

Environment Agency manager for Yorkshire, Martin Christmas, said: “In Ilkley on the River Wharfe we’ve put in place enhanced monitoring to help understand what is impacting bathing water quality.

"It was the first stretch of river to be designated as a bathing water in England and it’s going to take hard work to bring the water up to a sufficient bathing standard. We need to overcome a whole new set of challenges compared to coastal waters, but we’re committed as a network to finding solutions.”