Value of bathing waters and influence of bathing water quality: research findings

Research aimed to provide socio-economic understanding of the value of Scottish bathing waters and the influence of bathing water quality (BWQ) to bathers, beach users and to the national and local economies.


A mixed methods research design was adopted to tease out different conceptions and perspectives concerning the ‘value’ of bathing waters (see Figure 1). Within this, a fieldwork component was undertaken at five case study bathing water sites selected to capture a range of different rBWD statuses and site types (see Table 1).

Table 1: Details of the five case study bathing water sites

Site Local authority rBWD status [2] Site type
Nairn (Central) Highlands Poor Coastal town
Ayr (South Beach) South Ayrshire Poor Coastal resort
Troon (South Beach) South Ayrshire Good Coastal resort
Portobello (West) City of Edinburgh Poor Coastal town
Gullane East Lothian Excellent Coastal village

An evidence review was undertaken at the start of the project to understand the current state of knowledge against the research questions being investigated and to inform other aspects of the project. Three key primary data collection methods were used:

1. An ‘onsite’ survey with beach-users at the five case study bathing water sites (n=516) comprising 15 minute interviews with a minimum of 100 participants per site;

2. An ‘online’ (web based) survey with a nationally representative sample (n=1,013); and

3. Focus groups at each of the five case study bathing water sites with both community members and local businesses.


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