Cleanest water in 15 years recorded
Northern Ireland is enjoying its cleanest bathing waters for 15 years.
A lack of heavy rainfall helped produce the improved results after all 24 beaches passed the EC bathing waters mandatory standards for water quality this year.
A total of 20 were rated as excellent and can apply for the Blue Flag award for next year. Those which did not make the premier standard included Newcastle and Ballyholme in Co Down.
Ian Humphreys, chief executive of Tidy NI, said the results represented welcome news.
"There is more work to be done in how we deal with the overflow of sewage situation but we cannot build reservoirs big enough to deal with the heaviest rainfall," he said.
He warned people to avoid the water for up to two days after a downpour.
"What we are trying to do, working with the Environment Agency, is to get a consistent, clear message to the public that helps them make informed choices," he added.
A beach summit involving Environment Minister Alex Attwood and other experts is being held at Crawfordsburn, Co Down.
Mr Attwood said: "These are the best results in the last 15 years equalling those achieved in 1996. This is good and improving news for all of our beach users and shows that investment in all areas of water quality management is paying dividends.
"However, more is needed to be done - particularly with even more demanding EU directives now on the horizon."