92.1 % of bathing waters in the European Union now meet the minimum water quality standards set by the Bathing Water Directive. The results are from the latest annual Bathing Water Report of European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission, which describes water quality in more than 22,000 bathing sites at beaches, rivers and lakes across Europe last year.
The report found that 77.1 % of sites had excellent quality, ie complying with the most stringent guide values, an improvement of 3.5 percentage points on last year’s data. Some 93.1 % of coastal bathing waters were classified as ‘sufficient’, or complying with the less stringent mandatory values – a 1 % increase. Less than 2 % of bathing waters were non-compliant.
Cyprus, Croatia, Malta and Greece had excellent reports on their bathing water sites, all with more than 90 % of bathing water sites meeting the most stringent guide values (excellent quality), and the remainder complying with the mandatory values. At the opposite end of the scale, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Latvia, Luxemburg and Belgium had relatively low proportions of sites meeting the strict guide values, especially as regards inland waters.
Water quality at Europe’s most popular summer destinations was generally good – with more than 90 % of bathing water sites meeting the mandatory values. Spain, Italy and Portugal had more than 80 % of sites with excellent water quality.
The overall quality of bathing waters in the EU has markedly improved since 1990. The number of coastal bathing waters not complying with the Bathing Water Directive’s provisions fell from 9.2 % of sites in 1990 to 1.5 % in 2011. The number of inland bathing areas not complying with mandatory values decreased from 11.9 % in 1990 to 2.4 % in 2011, which is among the lowest percentages to date.
Professor Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Environment Agency, says: “The quality of water at beaches and other bathing spots is one of the most important environmental concerns of European citizens. But in several countries there is still a problem with pollution from agriculture and sewage, so we need to see more efforts to ensure safe and clean water for the public.”