More than 400 popular swimming spots will have their water quality tested as part of a nationwide programme by the Environment Agency.

The calibre of more than one hundred beaches in Devon and Cornwall will be tested as part of the scheme.

Last year in Devon and Cornwall, 144 beaches achieved a good or excellent classification.

Bathing waters classed as sufficient numbered four, and two were classed as 'poor', meaning 98.7 per cent of the region's 150 bathing waters passed.

The announcement comes days after Sidmouth, Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton and Seaton beaches were commended by charity Keep Britain Tidy.

Exmouth's beach won a Blue Flag award, an international accolade which recognises it one of the best in the world.

The four towns also scooped a Seaside Award, which means those visiting them can be sure that they are clean, safe and meet the highest environmental standards, as well as the tough international bathing water quality standards.

Last year, water quality remained high with 97.9 per cent of bathing waters in England meeting the tough standards.

Bruce Newport, area environment manager at the Environment Agency said:

"Our oceans are a valuable resource for both food, leisure and the economy.

"Checking how clean they are is a role the Environment Agency takes very seriously. Our clean bathing waters are the result of years of hard work by water companies and industry creating a wonderful environment for people visiting the South West."

The Environment Agency tests water quality at every official bathing water to ensure it is maintained and improved.

Helen Wakeham, head of water quality at the Environment Agency, said: "Water quality has improved at English beaches over the last two decades giving locals and tourists a better experience as well as benefiting the environment. Improving water quality at our beaches is fantastic - it shows what energy and commitment can achieve for the environment and people."

Over the last twenty years water quality has improved.

In the early 1990's, just 28 per cent of bathing waters would have met the highest standards and last year 92.4 per cent achieved a excellent or good score.