Rise in harbour pollution

There has been an unexpected rise in the level of pollution in the Floating Harbour. The City Council website states that ‘if E.Coli levels go above 5,000 counts per 100ml (CFU) at the Baltic Wharf site or across all other sites, a warning notice will be displayed on this website and at Baltic Wharf, outside the Harbour Master’s Office.’ A warning notice appeared on 4th April when the reading for Baltic Wharf was 9,780 CFU. From 1994 to 2020 (the period over which we have data) only 36 of the 1,066 weekly tests at Baltic Wharf recorded E.Coli levels above 5,000 CFU. So harbour pollution levels above this critical level are unusual. Following a reading above 5,000 CFU, daily testing will be carried out until levels improve. These daily readings are not published on the City Council’s website.

This rise in pollution levels in the Floating Harbour ironically follows the Council’s decision to allow swimming in the Harbour for a limited period. From 29th April to 28th May 2023, the Council are running a swimming pilot in Bristol Harbour, allowing people to swim in a cordoned-off area of the harbour in front of The Cottage Inn, Baltic Wharf.

Testing water quality in Bathurst Basin was discontinued when testing at other sites was resumed in July 2020 after COVID. We find it strange that some of the regular testing takes place in Floating Harbour sites where little or no leisure activities take place, but not in Bathurst Basin where the Avon Scout & Guide Canoe Club train youngsters, including recovery from capsizing. And the Basin is also much used by other canoeists, kayakers, paddle-boarders as there is little or no boat traffic to disturb them. More details on our campaign page.


Pollution levels in the Floating Harbour were substantially lower when tested on 18th April – 259 CFU at Baltic Wharf. The variability of water quality is a very good reason to test where leisure activity takes place.


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