Water quality decreases slightly, but vast majority of Europe’s beaches, lakes and rivers still clean enough for swimming.
Europeans heading to the beach this summer need not worry about the water. Some 96% of beaches and 90% of rivers and lakes meet the EU’s minimum standards for cleanliness, according to a report out today.
The EU report is based on water samples taken in 2009 of waters where swimming is authorised or at least tolerated.
For coastal waters, the results were about the same as in 2008. But there was a slight deterioration for inland waters, 92% of which had tested clean the previous year.
The EU’s environment agency, which produces the annual report, said fluctuations from year to year are not unusual. But it called for further efforts to ensure the quality of bathing waters.
Bathing waters in Europe are tested for physical, chemical and bacteriological pollutants. Countries must comply with the minimum standards set out in EU law, but can choose to go even further and adhere to the stricter additional criteria.
As in 2008, Greece, Cyprus, France and Malta were found to have the cleanest waters, with more than 90% of bathing sites meeting the stricter criteria. This was also the case for Bulgaria and Portugal, a big improvement over the previous year.
Some 20 600 swimming areas were checked in 2009, two-thirds of which were located along a coast. In terms of the strictest standards, about 89% of beaches and nearly 71% of lakes and rivers complied.