New annual report shows improvement of bathing water quality in Europe

In France 29 bathing water sites deteriorated. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Last year 96% of 21.000 swim locations in Europe met the minimum standards for water quality and 84% of the monitored locations could be called ‘excellent’. The annual report of the European Environment Agency (EEA) published on the 25th of May shows the quality of the European swim waters further improved in 2015.

The report refers to the highest numbers of bathing sites with poor water quality which can be found in Italy (95 bathing sites), France (95 bathing sites) and Spain (58 bathing sites). Across Europe, only 385 bathing sites were assessed as having poor bathing water quality in 2015. The share of bathing water sites rated ‘poor’ dropped to 1.6 % in 2015 from 1.9 % in 2014.

According to EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx the assessment shows that bathing water quality has improved remarkably over the years. “More and more bathing waters have not only reached the minimum requirements, but have improved to excellent standards. In some cities, people can even enjoy swimming in public harbour baths.” This is the result of improved sewage systems and better wastewater treatment.

Between 2014 and 2015, 125 bathing water sites changed status from poor quality to sufficient quality or better. The countries with the highest number of bathing water sites where the water quality improved from poor to at least sufficient were France (32 sites), Italy (24 sites) and Spain (20 sites). However, in the same period, 76 bathing water sites changed their status from at least sufficient quality to poor quality. This deterioration was most significant in France, where the quality at 29 bathing water sites changed from at least sufficient to poor. Deterioration in quality is also significant for Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, where the quality of more than 10 bathing water sites was downgraded from at least sufficient to poor.

State of bathing water 2015

Interactive map
To allow citizens to make an informed choice of swim water, the European Union publishes an annual report on the quality of coastal and inland bathing areas, based on data reported by EU Member States and other European countries. Since 2009, the European Environment Agency (EEA) and its European Topic Centre on Inland, Coastal and Marine Waters have prepared the report in cooperation with the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Environment. An interactive map is showing the status of bathing waters in 2014 of every Member State.

Since the end of the 2015 bathing season all bathing waters should at least 'sufficient' quality and bathing waters with poor quality will only be accepted unless measures to improve the quality are taken. Looking solely at coastal bathing waters, 97,1% of these waters met the minimum quality standards established by the Bathing Water Directive, compared to 96,3 per cent in 2014.

Excellent status
There are eight countries where 90% or more of bathing waters (whether coastal or inland) have reached excellent quality in 2015: Luxembourg (all 11 reported bathing water sites), Cyprus (99.1 % of bathing water sites), Malta (97.7 %), Greece (97.2 %), Croatia (94.2 %), Italy (90.6 %), Germany (90.3 %) and Austria (90.2 %).

Overall bathing water has improved over time. In 1991, 56 % of bathing water sites reached the highest standards. This percentage rose to 87 % in 2015, based on nearly 9 600 bathing water sites that have been monitored every year during this period. The share of bathing water with excellent quality increased from 78 % in 2011 to 84 % in 2015.