Quality of bathing water — 2009 bathing season

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Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

EU bathing water legislation

Almost two out of three Europeans consider that the quality of water in their country is a serious problem, according to a European Commission survey in 2009 (1). To allow Europeans to make an informed choice about which beach to visit,
the European Union (EU) publishes an annual report on the quality of coastal and freshwater bathing areas, as reported by EU Member States. Since 2009 the European Environment Agency (EEA) and its European Topic Centre on Water have prepared the report in cooperation with the European Commission Directorate-General for the Environment.

This report provides a comprehensive synopsis of the quality of bathing waters in the Member States of the European Union in the 2009 bathing season. It thereby gives an indication of the areas where the quality of bathing is expected to be good during 2010. In addition, the report shows the evolution of bathing water quality from 1990 to 2009.

This report provides a comprehensive synopsis of the quality of bathing waters in the Member States of the European Union in the 2009 bathing season. It thereby gives an indication of the areas where the quality of bathing is expected to be good during 2010. In addition, the report shows the evolution of bathing water quality from 1990 to 2009.

New European legislation on bathing water was adopted in 2006 (3). The 'New Bathing Water Directive' updates the measures of the 1975 legislation and simplifies its management and surveillance methods. It also provides for a more proactive approach to informing the public on water quality and creates four quality categories for bathing waters — 'poor', 'sufficient', 'good' and 'excellent'. The classification of bathing water quality is determined on the basis of a three- or four-year trend instead of a single year's result, as was the case for the Bathing Water Directive. Therefore, the procedure for assessing quality classes of bathing waters under the New Bathing Water Directive gives more reliable and realistic results than the assessment under the Bathing Water Directive.

The classification under the New Bathing Water Directive is also less susceptible to bad weather or one-off incidents. Heavy rain or similar exceptional situations may cause pollution problems for a few days. In such situations authorities have to introduce immediate measures to lower health risk to bathers.

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