Proportion of bathing water sites with excellent water quality in European countries (2017)
Heading for your favourite beach? You’ll want to know if the bathing water is clean. Europe has a great diversity of beautiful beaches and bathing areas, and each year millions of Europeans spend their weekends at their local beach or their holidays cooling off by the water. As this year’s bathing season approaches, many citizens begin to take a keen interest in the quality of bathing waters. The European Union’s efforts to ensure clean and healthy bathing water began forty years ago with the first Bathing Water Directive. Today Europe’s bathing waters are much cleaner than forty years ago when large quantities of untreated or partially treated municipal and industrial waste water were discharged into water.
For the last ten years, the European Environment Agency (EEA) and its European Topic Centre on Inland, Coastal and Marine Waters in cooperation with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment have prepared an annual report on the quality of bathing areas, as reported by the 28 EU Member States, Albania and Switzerland. Each year, the report is published before the start of the bathing water season.
Local authorities collect water samples at officially identified 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 diarrhoea if swallowed. Depending on the levels of bacteria detected, the bathing water quality is classified as ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’.
This report gives an overview of the 2017 bathing water quality thereby also indicating where the best quality bathing sites are likely to be found this year. In the 2017 season, almost 22 000 bathing waters were monitored throughout Europe.
As in recent years, the vast majority of bathing water sites have good quality bathing water. In 2017, 96.0 % of sites met the minimum quality requirements set out in the EU’s Bathing Water Directive.
In 2017, 294 (1.4 %) EU bathing water sites were rated as having ‘poor’ water quality, which is similar to 2016 figures. Swimming at bathing sites where water quality is poor can result in illness.
Bathing water sites classified, as ‘poor’ have to be closed during the following bathing season and must have measures in place to reduce pollution and eliminate hazards to the health of bathers. Bathing must be permanently prohibited or permanent advice against bathing must be put in place at bathing water sites that have been classified as poor for five consecutive years. In 2017, 76 bathing water sites were poor or non-compliant for five years; 44 in Italy, 24 in France, four in Spain and one in Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands, respectively.
All reported bathing water sites in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania, Slovenia and Switzerland achieved at leastsufficient quality in 2017 (according to minimum quality standards set by the Bathing Water Directive).
In five countries, 95 % or more of bathing waters were assessed as being of excellent quality: Luxembourg (all 12 reported bathing waters), Malta (98.9 % of all sites), Cyprus (97.3% of all sites), Greece (95.9 % of all sites) and Austria (95.1 % of all sites).