LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The number of British beaches recommended for bathing has dropped by a record 16.5 percent because of poor weather last year, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said on Friday.
In its annual Good Beach Guide, the MCS said only 370 beaches out of 777 tested were recommended for excellent water quality, down from 444 in 2008.
It was the biggest fall in the guide's 22-year history and the first time since 2002 that less than half of beaches were said to be good for bathing.
Heavy rain and severe storms which caused flooding across much of the country during the seventh-wettest British summer on record was to blame, the MCS said.
"Today's results reflect last summer's heavy rain which swept waterborne pollutants like raw sewage, petro-chemicals and farm waste into rivers and the sea," said Thomas Bell, the MCS Coastal Pollution Officer.
"MCS is now recommending 25 percent fewer beaches than three years ago and we're becoming concerned that the existing infrastructure for handling storm pollution may not be up to the job."
The number of beaches that failed to reach the minimum legal standard for water quality also rose nearly 50 percent from 53 to 78.
In April, the MCS said the amount of litter dumped on beaches across Britain had more than doubled in the last 15 years to its highest ever level.
Its beachwatch 2008 annual survey had found an average of 2,195 items of litter per kilometer of beach, a rise of 110 percent since 1994.
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison