Public consultation to improve EU rules on bathing waters

bathing water
The Bathing Water Directive is monitoring bathing waters inland and on the coast. Photo: Water News Europe.

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The European Commission (EC) is gathering online views in order to revise of the EU rules on bathing water. The Bathing Water Directive aims to prevent and reduce pollution in bathing water to levels that are no longer harmful to human health and the environment. The online consultation will run for twelve weeks until 20 January 2022. The EC will review the Bathing Water Directive at the beginning of 2023.

Until now 51 reactions are gathered during the online public consultation of the Bathing Water Directive (BWD). The public consultation aims to collect a wide range of views and feedback, including from Europeans who value the quality of bathing water, national and local authorities, stakeholders, and experts from academia who are involved in implementing EU bathing water policy.

Unscheduled testing

Swimmers from different countries are asking for regular testing of seawater the whole year round. They also plea for publishing the results freely online as soon as possible after the analysis. According to the swimmers it would also be useful if there was a clear provision for extra, unscheduled testing to take place when members of the public report significant concerns about current water quality.  

Monitoring not fit for purpose

Two Irish researchers are stating the current monitoring practice of taking one sample at the compliance point on a day during the bathing season is not fit for purpose.  They produced data through intensive sampling over numerous tidal cycles and throughout a number of bathing seasons. Their results show that the levels of E. coli and intestinal enterococci can vary by several orders of magnitude throughout the day. “Current compliance point sampling assumes a homogenous water body.  Our research has shown that water quality can vary by between 10 and 1,000 fold depending on the location of where the compliance point sample is taken”, state the researchers from the University College of Dublin.

Bathing Water report

Thanks to the EU’s Bathing Water Directive the quality of Europe’s bathing water has improved over the years. Every June the European Environment Agency publishes a Bathing Water report. It shows the results of the monitoring of all bathing sites across Europe from a year ago. Bathing water in Europe is classified as ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’. These classifications depend on the levels of faecal bacteria detected.

Measures

If water is classified as ‘poor’ EU Member States should take measures. For example: banning bathing or advising against it, providing information to the public and taking appropriate corrective actions. The most recent report on the bathing water quality in the EU found that 82.8% of 22 276 bathing sites in the EU have been classified as excellent, and only 1.3% as ‘poor’. All EU Member States, plus Albania and Switzerland, monitor their bathing sites according to the provisions of the EU’s Bathing Water Directive.

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