Europeans care about water quality and knowing that they have clean and safe water to swim or play in is an important factor in their choice of a holiday or weekend destination. For the tourism industry, clean and safe water is also a major factor in attracting visitors to an area. To allow Europeans to make an informed choice, the European Environment Agency and the European Commission publish an annual report on the quality of more than 22 000 bathing sites. In 2012 the report includes sites in all 27 EU Member States and three other countries. This report can help all water users find high quality bathing water across the region.
The European Union and its Member States have been working for years to improve water quality. Today Europe's bathing waters are much cleaner than thirty years ago when large quantities of untreated or partially treated municipal and industrial wastewater were discharged into water.
Each year millions of Europeans spend their weekends at their local beach or visit Europe's hugely diverse and beautiful beaches and bathing areas. Naturally, they have a keen interest in the quality of the bathing waters. The European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission are therefore pleased to present this year's bathing water report, which will help Europeans make informed choices about the bathing sites they visit.
This report provides a comprehensive synopsis of the quality of bathing waters in the Member States of the European Union in the 2011 bathing season. It thereby gives an indication of the areas where the quality of bathing is expected to be good during 2012. The report also shows the evolution of bathing water quality from 1990 to 2011.
Of the more than 21 000 bathing areas monitored throughout the European Union in 2011, two thirds were in coastal waters and the rest in rivers and lakes. The largest numbers of coastal bathing waters can be found in Italy, Greece, France and Spain, while Germany and France have the highest numbers of inland bathing waters.
During recent years, including the 2011 bathing season, Member States have adjusted their monitoring programmes to meet the requirements of the EU's new bathing water directive (Directive 2006/7/EC). At some sites sampling does not yet fully satisfy the new frequency criteria. This fact does not necessarily indicate unsatisfactory bathing water quality, however, so for 2011 results reported under less strict rules (1) are given, in accordance with the practice for 2010.
Overall in 2011, 92.1 % of bathing waters in the EU met the minimum water quality standards set by the bathing water directives. Bathing water quality increased at 0.6 % of sites in 2011 compared to 2010. The proportion of bathing waters with excellent quality (or complying with the more stringent guide values) increased by 3.5 percentage points compared to 2010, reaching 77.1 %. The share of non.compliant bathing waters was 1.8 %, which was a 0.1 percentage point increase from 2010. In 2011, 207 bathing waters were banned or closed (1 %), which was 57 more than in the 2010 bathing season.
Some 93.1 % of coastal bathing waters in the EU achieved at least sufficient quality (or complied with the mandatory values). This was an increase of 1.0 percentage points compared to 2010. Some 80.1 % of coastal bathing waters complied with the more stringent guide values in the 2011 bathing season, a 0.6 percentage point increase from 2010.