SUSSEX bathing water is the cleanest it has been since testing began.

Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, sampled the water at beaches across the county during the summer and found 16 had excellent water, eight were good and three sufficient, compared with 14 excellent, nine good and four sufficient last year.

Shoreham beach improved from good to excellent.

The water in central Brighton, Kemp Town and Hove remained excellent – however Defra inspectors did note the presence of litter on about 30 per cent of their visits.

Defra took water samples weekly between May 1 and September 30.

Other Sussex beaches to become cleaner were Bognor’s Aldwick beach which improved from sufficient to good and Pagham, which went from good to excellent.

Dr Alison Hoyle, Southern Water’s director of risk and compliance, said: “Water at the beaches around our coast has never been cleaner.

“The trend of improvement has continued again in 2019 thanks to the collaborative approach taken between councils, regulators, charities and Southern Water.

“It is hard to believe that 30 years ago only 41 per cent of beaches in the region met the sufficient standard.”

Southern Water has invested more than £32 million on improving bathing waters in the past five years including major programmes in Worthing, Sussex. Dr Hoyle said bathing water was affected by many factors, many of which were out of the company’s control.

She said: “We have an important role to play but there are a diverse range of pollutions which can impact water quality.

“Contaminated rainwater running off roads and agricultural land, wastewater from privately owned treatment works, boats and animals on the beach such as dogs and seabirds all play a part.

“That’s why it is so important for all parties to work together.

“These result show the power of co-operation.”

Last week campaign group Surfers Against Sewage revealed there had been 220 discharges of sewage into the sea around Sussex between May and September.

Its 2019 Water Quality Report said Southern Water was responsible for the most discharges, with 571 cases recorded.

In August the utility firm apologised for a sewage spill off the coast of Newhaven after a power failure at a water treatment works in the town.