With the summer around the corner, the latest report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) is inviting swimmers to enjoy the excellent bathing waters in Europe.
1. Excellent quality
Almost 85% of Europe’s bathing waters are in great conditions for swimmers, meeting the most stringent quality standards set by the European Union (EU). The EEA assessment, conducted at 21551 officially identified bathing sites in the EU, as well as 119 in Albania and 189 in Switzerland, gives a good indication of where swimmers can find the best quality bathing sites across Europe this summer.
Proportion of bathing waters with excellent quality in European countries in 2021
Out of 21859 bathing sites in Europe in 2021, 84.7% were of excellent quality. In four countries, 95% or more of bathing waters were of excellent quality: Austria, Malta, Croatia and Greece. Additionally in Malta, Bulgaria, Romania and Luxembourg, all assessed bathing water sites were of at least sufficient quality in 2021 — the minimum quality standard set by EU legislation.
This year’s results prove that over 40 years of EU action to improve the bathing water quality across Europe has benefited our health as well as the environment.Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director
2. Bathing Water Directive
Since the adoption of the Bathing Water Directive in 2006, the share of ‘excellent’ sites has grown, and has stabilised in recent years at around 88% for coastal and 78% for inland sites.
Coastal and inland bathing water quality in the EU between 2015 and 2021
One of the main requirements of EU law was to ensure that all bathing water sites were at least of ‘sufficient’ quality by 2015. In the 2021 bathing season, this minimum quality standard was met by 95.2% of all EU bathing water sites.
According to the Bathing Water Directive, bathing must be permanently prohibited or permanent advice against bathing put in place at bathing water sites that have been classified as poor for five consecutive years or more. In 2021, this was the case for 45 EU bathing waters: 31 in Italy, eight in France, two in the Netherlands, and one in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland and Sweden.
The EU’s Zero Pollution Action Plan and revision of the EU’s Bathing Water Directive will further solidify our commitment to prevent and reduce pollution for decades to come.Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director
In October 2021, the European Commission launched an online public consultation on the revision of the Bathing Water Directive to take into account possible shortcomings and issues of emerging concerns both for citizens’ health and the environment.
3. Poor quality
In spite of the great quality of bathing water sites in Europe, some areas are are still of poor quality. According to EEA, last year, 332 or 1.5% of bathing water sites in the EU were of poor quality.
Bathing water quality in Europe in the 2021 season (EU countries, Albania, and Switzerland)
The lower quality occurs in six EU countries, where 3% or more of bathing waters were of poor quality: Estonia (two bathing waters or 3.1%), France (99 bathing waters or 3.0%), the Netherlands (34 bathing waters or 4.6%), Latvia (two bathing waters or 3.6%), Slovakia (one bathing water or 3.1%) and Sweden (16 bathing waters or 3.5%).
Swimming at bathing sites with poor water quality can result in illness. The EEA left the advice to national authorities saying that bathing water sites classified as poor must be closed throughout the following bathing season and measures must be put into place to reduce pollution and eliminate hazards to the health of bathers.