Every year, millions of Europeans take advantage of the continent's wonderful selection of beaches, rivers, and lakes for a relaxing holiday or a day out. It is vitally important that they know the quality of the water they are swimming in, and that they do not jeopardise their health. The European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission hope that this year's bathing water report will encourage Europeans to enjoy bathing areas near them, and assist them in planning their trips further afield.
This report provides a comprehensive synopsis of the quality of bathing waters in the Member States of the European Union in the 2012 bathing season. It thereby gives an indication of the areas where the quality of bathing is expected to be good if not excellent during 2013. The report also shows the evolution of bathing water quality from 1990 to 2012.
Of the more than 22 000 bathing areas monitored throughout Europe in 2012, more than two thirds were in coastal waters and the rest were in rivers and lakes. In the 2012 bathing season, the monitoring of bathing sites has been adjusted to the provisions in the EU's new bathing water directive (Directive 2006/7/EC). The sampling of water quality in most of the bathing water sites meets the frequency standards (this involves a pre-season sample of the water quality, followed up by monthly samples thereafter).
As regards assessment, the provisions in the new bathing water directive have been applied in 19 European countries (18 Member States and Croatia). This involved taking data from four years of monitoring to make the 2012 assessment. For the remaining ten countries, the 2012 assessment has been carried out under a set of transitional rules that do not yet meet all the requirements of the new directive using the results from the 2012 monitoring.
In 2012, the quality of 94 % of all bathing waters met at least the minimum 'mandatory' level (corresponding to a rating of sufficient quality under the new directive). Bathing water quality increased by 1.8 percentage points compared with results from 2011, and increased by 2.5 percentage points compared to 2010. There has also been a marked decline compared with 2011 in the number of bathing waters that were closed or that prohibited bathing.
In 2012, 95.3 % of coastal bathing waters in the EU-27 achieved the minimum quality standards requested by the EU directives — an increase of 2.0 % compared with 2011. The share of coastal bathing waters with excellent quality (or complying with the guide values) in 2012 reached 81.2 % (an increase of 0.9 % from 2011).
The percentage of inland bathing waters with excellent quality is 72 % in 2012, a 1.6 % increase from 2011. In 2012, 91 % of inland bathing waters in the European Union had good or sufficient quality. This is a 1.0 % point increase from 2011. Only 2.3 % of inland bathing waters in the EU did not satisfy the minimum quality level. This is 0.1 % decrease from the previous year, continuing the slow but steady reduction in the percentage of poor quality bathing waters.
Five countries had all their bathing waters classified as compliant with at least mandatory values (i.e. no poor quality bathing sites were found): Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Romania.
Ten countries reached compliance levels with excellent quality (or complying with the guide values) that were above the EU average (78.3 %): Cyprus (100 %), Luxembourg (100 %), Malta (96.6 %), Croatia (95.3 %), Greece (93.3 %), Germany (88.1 %), Portugal (86.7 %), Italy (85.1 %), Finland (83.4%) and Spain (82.8 %). However, some of these countries also had some non-compliant bathing waters.
The highest rates of non-compliant or poor bathing waters were found in Belgium (13.0 %), the Netherlands (6.5 %), the United Kingdom (5.7 %), Spain (3.8 %) and Denmark (3.1 %).