Europe’s bathing waters safe for summer, monitoring shows


Bathing in Europe is safe, says the European Environment Agency (EEA). [Peter Dutton/Flickr]

Europeans can safely go for a swim at a beach this summer. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA) 95% of monitored bathing sites in the EU lived up to minimum standards for water quality in 2014.

Furthermore, 83% of the water quality was ‘excellent’ and slightly better than in 2013, said the EEA in a report published on Wednesday (20 May).

The report shows that all the bathing sites in Cyprus, Luxembourg, and Malta had excellent water quality. These countries were followed by Greece (97%), Croatia (94%) and Germany (90%), all having a high proportion of sites with excellent bathing water quality. Across Europe, just under 2% of bathing sites failed to meet the Bathing Water Directive’s minimum standards for water quality and were rated ‘poor’.

The results come from annual bathing water quality report by the EEA and the European Commission, which compares the quality of bathing water sampled at more than 21,000 coastal and inland bathing sites across the EU, Switzerland and Albania in 2014.

Local authorities collect water samples at selected bathing sites throughout the bathing season. The samples are then analysed for two types of bacteria, which indicate pollution from sewage or livestock. Polluted water can have impacts on human health, causing stomach upsets and diarrhea if swallowed.

Depending on the levels of bacteria detected, the bathing water quality is classified as ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’. The EEA produces an annual report based on data from the previous bathing season. This means that this year’s report is a compilation of data gathered in summer of 2014. The data indicates the quality of bathing water expected in 2015.

“At some point we are all tourists, passing some time on the beach,” said Karmenu Vella, the Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

“It is obvious that clean and safe bathing waters are important for us to stay healthy and the good news is that bathing waters continue to improve. So next time you take a dip, remember that the EU played a part in keeping your bathing water safe and clean,” the Commissioner added.

The highest numbers of bathing sites with poor water quality were found in Italy (2%, 107 bathing sites), in France (3%, 105 bathing sites) and in Spain (3%, 67 bathing sites).
In general, coastal beaches score high, with almost 97% of EU sites meeting the minimum standards and more than 85% rated as ‘excellent’.

In comparison, 91% of inland bathing waters (lakes and rivers) score at least minimum standards and more than 78% have excellent quality.

In Luxembourg and Bulgaria, all inland bathing sites were rated ‘excellent’, followed by Denmark where 95% of bathing water lakes had excellent quality. Germany achieved excellent quality at 92% of almost 2,000 inland bathing sites.

Hans Bruyninckx, the EEA’s Executive Director, said that the quality of Europe’s bathing waters is consistently very high and continues to improve.

“It shows that policies work and contribute to our quality of life when they are ambitious, well-defined and well-implemented,” Bruyninckx said.


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