Ninety-five per cent of the monitored bathing sites in the European Union met minimum standards for water quality in 2014. Water quality was excellent at 83 % of the sites, an increase of almost 1 percentage point compared to 2013.
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 are from the annual bathing water quality report from the European Environment Agency (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. Alongside the report, the EEA has published an interactive map showing the performance of each bathing site.
Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said:
"At some point we are all tourists, passing some time on the beach. 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!"
Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said:
“I am glad to see 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.”
Bathing water 2014: key findings
• While more than 95% of bathing sites met the minimum requirements, 83 % met the more stringent ‘excellent’ level. Only 409 bathing sites, corresponding to less than 2% of the total number, were assessed as having poor bathing water quality.
• The highest numbers of bathing sites with poor water quality were found in Italy (107 bathing sites, 2%), France (105 bathing sites, 3%) and Spain (67 bathing sites, 3%).
• In general, coastal beaches score high, with almost 97% of EU sites meeting the minimum standards and more than 85% rated as ‘excellent’. All coastal beaches in Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus were classified as having excellent bathing water quality.
• 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.
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 diarrhoea if swallowed.
Depending on the levels of bacteria detected, the bathing water quality is classified as ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’. The EEA produces this annual report based on data from the previous bathing season, so this year's report is a compilation of data gathered in summer 2014, indicating the quality of bathing water expected in 2015.