Welsh Ministerial Project Visit 2013

Finance Minister Jane Hutt  visited an EU-funded project which is helping coastal communities on both sides of the Irish Sea maximise the potential of their shorelines on 10th September 2013.  The visit took part as part of the European Cooperation Day initiative which highlights the benefit of cross-border collaboration within the European Union.  It has been celebrated on 21 September across the EU since 2012.

The  Smart Coasts = Sustainable Communities project, supported by the Ireland Wales Programme 2007-13, is helping to improve the quality of the coastal areas of Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Swansea in Wales and Dublin and Wicklow in Ireland to boost tourism and support local economies.

Led by Aberystwyth University with University College Dublin, the project has seen partners from both regions collaborating to protect their shorelines by developing a new system to give real-time water quality information.

The system involves predicting water quality, based on sampling and analysis as well as field and coastal data, which can be linked to electronic information systems to provide bathers with up-to-date details of water conditions.

It aims to improve understanding of pollution sources and help maintain and increase the number of Blue Flag beaches in line with European bathing water standards.

Finance Minister Jane Hutt said:

“This is an excellent example of Wales leading the way in developing collaborative cross border projects to deliver positive economic impacts by ensuring local residents and visitors can enjoy the clean water and excellent beaches.  Wales pro-actively participates in a range of initiatives with EU regions, bringing an extra €41m boost to the region, demonstrating the positive benefits of EU cooperation on the Welsh economy.”

Professor David Kay of Aberystwyth University said:

“The project was funded by the EU to develop the tools needed to predict bathing water quality in real time. This approach to bathing water management has been promoted by World Health Organisation Guidelines and EU Directives. It is designed to protect the public through predicting water quality and giving real-time information to beach users. This is scientifically challenging but, if achieved, will help prevent the loss of 50% of our Blue Flag beach awards when new tighter standards in Bathing Water Directive (2006) come into force in 2016.

He added

‘The first successful demonstration of prediction in England and Wales is Swansea Bay where signage to allow the public ‘informed choice’ has been underway throughout the 2013 bathing season. This was delivered by the Smart Coasts project and has the potential to safeguard the use of Swansea bathing water whilst protecting public health. The real-time approach allows hourly prediction of water quality and is a significant advance on systems currently available, generating the potential for export and implementation throughout the EU and internationally.’

As part of European Co-operation Day, events are being held this week in almost 40 EU regions to highlight the range of EU-backed initiatives which are benefiting all aspects of daily life from creating jobs, to improving skills and innovation as well as protecting the environment.

For further information on European Cooperation Day or Smart Coasts=Sustainable Communities