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High standards for Europe's bathing water

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High standards for Europe's bathing water

Photo © haveseen - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - Forty years after the first Bathing Water Directive was introduced, the EU's annual bathing water quality report show the standards of Europe's bathing water continuing to improve.

It shows that bathing water quality has improved continuously over time leading to 96 per cent of monitored bathing sites in the EU meeting the minimum standards for water quality in 2015.

The report compiles analyses of water sampled at more than 21 000 coastal and inland bathing sites across the EU, Switzerland and Albania indicating whether or not it has been contaminated by faecal pollution from sewage or livestock.

While 96% of bathing sites met the minimum requirements, more than 84 % met the more stringent 'excellent' level. Several large tourist areas and cities like Blackpool, Copenhagen and Munich are also starting to benefit from investments in improved sewage systems, which are leading to cleaner bathing sites at harbour areas, urban river locations and nearby beaches.

Bathing water quality has improved remarkably over the years, according to the EEA's Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx. "More and more bathing waters have not only reached the minimum requirements, but have improved to excellent standards. In some cities, people can even enjoy swimming in public harbour baths," he says.

Overall bathing water has improved over time. In 1991, 56 % of bathing water sites reached the highest standards. This percentage rose to 87 % in 2015, based on nearly 9 600 bathing water sites that have been monitored every year during this period.

Other key findings

  • More than 90 % of bathing sites in eight Member States had excellent water quality in 2015: Luxembourg (all 11 reported bathing water sites), Cyprus (99.1 % of bathing water sites), Malta (97.7 %), Greece (97.2 %), Croatia (94.2 %), Italy (90.6 %), Germany (90.3 %) and Austria (90.2 %).
  • Across Europe, only 385 bathing sites were assessed as having poor bathing water quality in 2015. The share of bathing water sites rated 'poor' dropped to 1.6 % in 2015 from 1.9 % in 2014.
  • The highest numbers of bathing sites with poor water quality were found in Italy (95 bathing sites, 1.7 %), France (95 bathing sites, 2.8 %) and Spain (58 bathing sites, 2.6 %).
  • The share of bathing water with excellent quality increased from 78 % in 2011 to 84 % in 2015.

The 2015 bathing season was the first time that all EU Member States monitored their bathing sites according to the provisions of the EU's revised Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC). The directive specifies if the bathing water quality can be classified as 'excellent', 'good', 'sufficient' or 'poor' depending on the levels of faecal bacteria detected.

Further information

European bathing water quality in 2015 report

Alongside the report, the EEA has published an interactive map showing the performance of each bathing site. Additional information such as country reports and the Bathing Water Directive are available at the EEA or the European Commission bathing water websites.

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