Almost a third of Welsh beaches could be at risk of losing their prized blue flag status because this summer's floods have resulted in a rise of bacteria levels in the seawater.
From next year, new rules mean that water quality will be assessed over four years rather than one - and although 43 beaches and five marinas in Wales earned blue flag status in 2012, six beaches lost it.
Environment Agency Wales (EAW) has said that the wettest UK summer in 100 years has resulted in a rise in bacteria levels in the water due to sewage pollution.
Samples taken from beaches since May have shown a temporary increase in bacteria which could have come from rainwater running off farm land, carrying sheep and cattle waste into the sea; storm sewage systems releasing diluted sewage into the sea to protect homes from flooding, and leaks from household plumbing and septic tanks.
A lack of sunshine has also contributed to the problem, as UV rays usually kill some of the bacteria found in the sea.
BBC News reports that the bacteria was not at a high enough level to pose a health risk, but it would affect bathing water classifications for 2013, which will be announced in November.
EAW have not named the beaches that might be at risk of losing their blue flag status, but Keep Britain Tidy said that research in England suggested that 20-30 per cent of beaches in England and Wales could be at risk.
Chris Mills, director of EAW, said: "The heavy rain this summer has not only caused significant flooding and problems for farmers and tourism, it has also affected bathing waters at some of our beaches.
"It is disappointing as the trend for bathing waters in recent years is on the up, but the record rainfall this year could buck the trend."
Earlier this year, Aberavon, Cefn Sidan (pictured above), Llandudno North Shore, Aberystwyth, Criccieth and Fairbourne all lost the status.
The blue flag award is issued by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), which rates beaches on various categories including facilities, environmental management, water quality and cleanliness.
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