Financially strapped Cyprus should be able to lure tourist revenue with it pristine bathing waters, which along with Luxembourg are ranked as some of the EU's cleanest in an environmental report published today (21 May).
In contrast, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain and Denmark had the highest percentages of bathing sites that failed to meet EU standards in 2012, in part because torrential rains washed sewage into them.
The trend overall was positive as 94% of beaches, lakes and rivers in the European Union met minimum water quality standards in 2012, up from 92% in 2011, according to the European Environment Agency.
But nearly 2% of bathing sites at beaches, lakes and rivers had poor water quality, and the highest rates of non-complaint sites were in Belgium (13%), the Netherlands (6.5%), the United Kingdom (5.7%), Spain (3.8%) and Denmark (3.1%), the EEA reported.
"It's encouraging to see the quality of European bathing waters continuing to improve," Environment Commissioner Janez Poto?nik said in a statement. "But more remains to be done to ensure all our waters are suitable for bathing and drinking and that our aquatic ecosystems are in good health. Water is a precious resource and we need to put into practice all the necessary measures to protect it in full."
In Cyprus and Luxembourg, all listed sites achieved excellent water quality.
Other EU countries where the share of bathing sites ranked pristine was above the EU average of 78% were Malta (97%), Greece (93%), Germany (88%), Portugal (87%), Italy (85%), Finland (83%) and Spain (83%).
Croatia, which joins the European Union on 1 July and is a popular summer tourist destination, also had excellent water quality at 95% of its bathing sites.