The quality of bathing water across Europe declined slightly between 2009 and 2010, but the overall quality was still high. More than nine out of 10 bathing water sites now meet the minimum requirements.
Cyprus was the star performer, with 100% of its bathing water sites meeting strict guide values, followed by Croatia (97.3%), Malta (95.4%), Greece (94.2%) and Ireland (90.1%). The results are from the annual Bathing Water Report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission, which compare water quality in more than 21,000 coastal and inland bathing sites across the EU-27. The Commission has also adopted new signs and symbols that will be used to inform the public on bathing water classification and on bathing restrictions (see link below).
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: 'I am glad to see that the quality of Europe's bathing waters remains high, although there is room for improvement. Clean water is a priceless resource, and we should not take it for granted. I would encourage Member States to ensure we turn the slight decline we experiencing last year into an upward trend.'
Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, said: “Clean water for swimming is very important for EU citizens, and this information will allow them to demand the highest quality water in lakes, rivers and beaches. Public participation is essential for the continued monitoring of Europe’s bathing water, especially as the effects of climate change become more visible.”
The report provides a comprehensive overview of the quality of bathing water in EU Member States throughout the 2010 bathing season, so swimmers can find areas where water quality is expected to be good during 2011. It also shows trends in bathing water quality since 1990.
The analysis brings together data from more than 21,000 designated bathing waters across Europe, approximately 70% of them coastal sites and the rest inland bathing waters. Sites are classified as compliant with mandatory values, compliant with the more stringent guide values, or non-compliant.
High bathing water quality despite varied results in 2010
In 2010, 92.1% of Europe’s coastal bathing waters and 90.2% of inland bathing waters met the minimum quality standards. Only 1.2% of coastal bathing water and 2.8% of inland sites were non-compliant. The remainder are unclassified due to insufficient data.
In general, coastal bathing water quality deteriorated between 2009 and 2010 – the number of bathing water bodies meeting the mandatory values fell by 3.5%, while those meeting guide values fell by 9.5%.
Inland water quality has also dropped. The number of rivers and lakes achieving the guide values fell by 10.2%, although compliance with the mandatory values was almost stationary. Rivers were particularly problematic, with only 25% of river bathing waters achieving guide values.
Bathing water in Europe needs to comply with standards set in the Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) adopted in 2006, which updates and simplifies previous legislation. The directive was to be transposed into the national law by March 2008, although Member States have until December 2014 to implement it. During the 2010 bathing season 20 Member States monitored and reported bathing water quality according to the new provisions.
European citizens can find out about the water quality at their favourite swimming spot by checking the Water Information System for Europe (WISE). The site allows users to download data and check interactive maps, from the European level down to the individual monitoring station level. People can also report the state of their local water using the Eye on Earth website.