According to the 2019 European bathing water quality assessment, the quality of Europe’s bathing water remains high. Just under 85 % of swimming sites across Europe monitored in 2019 met the European Union’s highest and most stringent ‘excellent’ quality standards. The results published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission give a good indication where swimmers can find the best quality bathing waters.
Europe’s bathing water quality has vastly improved over the last 40 years, when the EU’s Bathing Water Directive was introduced. Effective monitoring and management introduced under the directive, combined with other EU environmental legislation such as the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (1991), led to a drastic reduction in untreated or partially treated municipal and industrial waste water ending up in bathing water. As a result, more and more sites are not only meeting the minimum quality standards but have also improved their quality to the highest standards. Alongside this year’s report, the EEA has also released an updated interactive map showing the performance of each bathing site. Updated country reports are also available, as well as more information on the implementation of the directive in countries.
All EU Member States, plus Albania and Switzerland, monitor their bathing sites according to the provisions of the EU’s Bathing Water Directive. The assessment of the bathing water quality under the Bathing Water Directive makes use of the values of two microbiological parameters: Intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli.
The legislation specifies if the bathing water quality can be classified as ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’, depending on the levels of faecal bacteria detected. Where water is classified as ‘poor’, EU Member States should take certain measures, such as banning bathing or advising against it, providing information to the public, and taking suitable corrective actions.
The contamination of water by faecal bacteria continues to pose a risk to human health, especially if it is found at bathing water sites. Swimming at contaminated beaches or lakes can result in illness. The major sources of pollution are sewage and water draining from farms and farmland. Such pollution increases during heavy rains and floods due to sewage overflow and polluted drainage water being washed into rivers and seas.
Source: EEA (European Environment Agency)