Case Study: SEPA’s Bathing Water Quality Signs

With a legal duty to provide water quality information to the public from May to September each year, SEPA monitors the water quality of over 80 designated bathing waters in Scotland and publishes the results online.

Partners like Scrimsign help SEPA make visits to the beach safer and more enjoyable by informing the public of good, sufficient, or poor water conditions on the electronic signs at 29 bathing water locations.

Bathing Water Sign

History of Electronic Displays Used By SEPA

SEPA first used electronic displays to display water quality and visitor information in 2003. These signs are now nearing the end of their working life and are beginning to look dated.

When Scrimsign won the contract to support the existing displays in 2019, we were asked to design and supply a custom designed modern totem, with full colour LED displays and an integrated A1 poster. Six new displays have now been built and displayed at bathing water locations on the Ayrshire coast.

Bathing Water Sign

Our Software

The full software control system for bathing water signs was completely rewritten by Scrimsign to allow automatic updates on schedule, using bathing water quality information from SEPA’s own system. It automatically updates the generic messaging displayed which can be set to specific timings. On the new totems, different colours can be used to draw attention to the display’s content

SEPA’s operations centre also has a manual option so they can provide ad hoc messages to immediately update displays with information on unexpected pollution events or incidents. And, more recently, the software has been updated to display daily tide timetables from the Admiralty EasyTide website on the signs.

SEPA Commentary

The main reason we established the new totem-style signs was their attractive, up-to-date, modern look, but also the increased functionality of coloured text via live digital communication to the electronic message boards.

One of the improvements of the new designs is the combined mix of both an electronic text message board with a fixed poster inside a single, weatherproof, secure cabinet door for maintenance and servicing access.

The dimensions and appearance of the totem signs overall are ideal in outside locations as they provide a prominent structure which stands out from a distance, but importantly also brings people in towards them to look at the information boards contained within.

The key information section is visible at eye level, and the electronic message section is visible while standing in front and when passing by without being obtrusive, as their levels of illumination and/or text colours can be set for any local situation. The sleek designs have good on-site performance and are easy to clean/wash down.


“The modern design of the Totem signs looks fantastic at our beach site locations. The sleek steel cabinet is an eye-catching structure which provides a robust attractive platform to house our electronic message board with an integrated space for beach posters and information sheets.

The electronic message section displays dynamic live text on water quality forecasts, tide times, or other beach messages with colour options.

The cabinet and structure are robust and work well in the outside environment.

During the design stage, we undertook consultation with key stakeholders who gave positive approval of the overall look and liked the flexible opportunities for providing timely public information.”

Calum McPhail
Environmental Quality Manager
Scottish Environment Protection Agency

Bathing Water Sign

The Benefits of Our System

  • Automatically updates bathing water quality status at each location.
  • Clearly displays important information in bright, eye-catching colours in almost all weather conditions.
  • Quickly delivers useful and instructive messages as incident/events occur for the public, improving health and safety for all.
  • The modern and attractive design can feature your logo to raise public perceptions of your organisation.

Typical Use

During the bathing season, the most important function for the displays is to show the daily predicted water quality and, if necessary, an advisory message when the water is unsafe for bathing. Typical messages are shown below.



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