Water at nearly all of Europe’s coastal and inland bathing sites is clean enough to swim in – as overall quality improves.
The findings – from the European Environment Agency's annual bathing water report – are based on regular samples taken from more than 22 000 coastal and inland bathing sites across Europe.
The number of sites found to have water of “excellent” quality increased by 3.5% since last year, while those having “sufficient” water quality increased by 1%. Less than 2% did not meet the EU’s minimum standards.
Check water quality before you swim
2011 water testing
Bathing sites at beaches, rivers and lakes across Europe are regularly tested for harmful pollutants and bacteria, such as E. coli, which may indicate the presence of sewage or livestock waste.
While overall more sites met the EU's minimum standards compared to 2010, a number of countries registered exceptional results.
The best...and the worst
The top performers in 2011 were Cyprus, Croatia, Malta and Greece, where over 90% of all bathing sites were found to be “excellent”. The remaining bathing areas complied with mandatory standards.
The worst performers were the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Latvia, Luxembourg and Belgium, where a relatively low number of sites met minimum EU standards.
In the UK, 82.8% of 617 bathing sites tested were excellent, 14.6% were of good or sufficient quality, while 14 failed to make the grade and 2 were banned or closed.
The overall water quality at bathing sites in the EU has improved steadily since 1990. The number of coastal waters not complying with EU requirements fell from 9.2% in 1990 to 1.5% in 2011. Inland areas that did not comply decreased from 11.9% in 1990 to 2.4% in 2011, among the lowest figures to date.