Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, added, 'Information sources like this report and our web-based viewing tools enable citizens not only to check the quality of the bathing water in their local community or holiday destination, but also to allow them to get more actively involved in the protection of their environment.'
Bathing water quality shows a long-term upward trend
Every summer millions of Europeans head for the beach to enjoy the sun and to cool down in refreshing clean water. To allow Europeans to make an informed choice on which beach to choose, the Commission publishes a yearly report on the quality of coastal and freshwater bathing areas as reported by Member States for the beaches located within their territory. This year the report was prepared by the European Environment Agency (EEA), which is also making available on its website maps and tables with detailed information on specific bathing areas.
In 2008 the number of bathing waters monitored increased by some 75 sites. Of the 21 400 bathing areas monitored throughout the European Union in 2008 two thirds were on the coast and the rest were along rivers and lakes. The largest number of coastal bathing waters can be found in Italy, Greece, France, Spain and Denmark while Germany and France have the highest number of inland bathing waters.
The overall quality of bathing waters in the EU has markedly improved since 1990. Compliance with mandatory values (minimum quality requirements) increased over the 1990 to 2008 period from 80 % to 96 % and from 52 % to 92 % in coastal and inland waters respectively. From 2007 to 2008 compliance increased both for inland and coastal waters (1.1 and 3.3 percentage points respectively).
Twelve Member States monitoring under the new bathing directive
Bathing areas are zones where bathing is explicitly authorised or where bathing is traditionally practised by a large number of bathers and is not prohibited.
To determine their quality bathing waters are tested against a number of physical, chemical and microbiological parameters for which the Bathing Water Directive sets out mandatory values. Member States must comply with the mandatory values but may adopt the stricter standards and non-binding guide values.
In 2006 a new bathing water directive  took effect which updated the parameters and monitoring provisions in line with the latest scientific knowledge. The new Directive places greater emphasis on providing information to the public on the quality of bathing areas. Member States have until 2015 to fully implement the new Directive but twelve Member States (Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden) already monitored their bathing areas during the 2008 bathing season according to the parameters of the new Directive.