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Overall increase in quality of UK Bathing Waters – EU annual report
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09/06/2010 00:00:00

Clean bathing waters are absolutely essential for key economic sectors such as tourism and are vital for plant and animal life. The annual bathing water report, presented by the European Commission and the European Environment Agency shows that just over 97% of UK bathing areas (coastal, rivers and lakes) met with EU minimum standards in 2009. Importantly, 80% of these waters were found to adhere to more stringent guide values which show an overall improvement of 10%since 2008 in this top category. The report, which is released today, also outlines where to obtain detailed and up-to-date information on bathing sites the.

With 608 reported bathing waters, the United Kingdom accounts for around 2.8% of the reported bathing waters of the European Union.  Within these 608 sites the mandatory values were met for 97.1% of the coastal bathing waters. This is an increase of 1.6% compared to the previous year. 80% of all bathing waters tested met the more stringent guide values, which is a significant increase of 10.9%. 14 bathing waters (2.3%) were non-compliant with the mandatory values compared to 24 (4%) in 2008.

Since the start of reporting in 1990, no coastal bathing water had to be closed during the season.

All 12 freshwater bathing waters met the mandatory values in 2009 compared to 11 (91.7%) in the previous year. Four of these freshwater bathing sites (33.3%) met the more stringent guide values.

The UK’s individual (and other EU bathing) sites’ results can be viewed on an interactive website developed by the European Environment Agency. WISE - Water Information System for Europe ( is a gateway to all water related information. Among other water related data, information on site-specific bathing water quality can be found in the WISE map viewer and WISE Bathing Water Quality data viewer through interactive maps and graphs

Bathing water quality information in the UK can also be accessed through a wide range of other sources, including the traditional poster scheme, which is operated at many UK bathing waters, and the internet, where up-to-date results of samples taken in 2009 were posted on the websites of the Environment Agency for bathing waters in England and Wales (, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for Scotland ( and in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency:   (

    European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik said, ‘Over the last thirty years, EU and national legislation has significantly improved the quality of Europe’s bathing waters but our work does not end here. Despite our decade-long track record of high quality, we need to keep up the effort constantly to both improve and maintain what we have achieved.’

    Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, added, ‘Further improvement to Europe’s bathing water quality requires citizen involvement. This means, first and foremost, finding out and understanding the current state of our environment and then demanding cleaner water from relevant authorities. Our web-based tools provide citizens easy access to environmental information as well as a platform to voice their observations.’

    Efforts to improve the quality of bathing waters should be seen in the context of Europe’s efforts to achieve good ecological and environmental status in accordance with the EU Water and Marine Framework Directives.

    2009 results confirm a long-term upward trend

    Of the 20,000 bathing areas monitored throughout the European Union in 2009, two‑thirds were on the coast and the rest were at rivers and lakes. Compliance with mandatory values (minimum quality requirements) at coastal sites increased from 80 % in 1990 to 96 % in 2009. For inland waters, the increase was even greater, rising from 52 % to 90 %.

    Between 2008 and 2009 there was a slight deterioration in the number of bathing waters meeting minimum standards, with reductions of less than 1 percentage point (pp) for coastal sites and 3 pps for inland bathing waters. Compliance with the more stringent ‘guide values’ between 2008 and 2009 increased by slightly less than 1 pp for coastal sites to reach 89 % but decreased by less than 3 pps for inland waters to 71 %. Such annual fluctuations are not unusual by the standards of recent years.

    Almost all the coastal bathing sites in Cyprus, France, Greece and Portugal complied with the more stringent guide values ( [1]). Only 2 % of EU coastal bathing sites were banned in 2009, mostly in Italy. Although inland bathing sites show greater variation in water quality, a large majority of the inland sites in Finland, France, Germany and Sweden also complied with guide values.

    Fourteen Member States monitoring under the new Bathing Water Directive

    To determine their quality, bathing waters are tested against a number of physical, chemical and microbiological parameters. Member States must comply with the mandatory values set out in the Bathing Water Directive [1] but may choose instead to adhere to the stricter (non-binding) guide values.

    By 2015, EU Member States will have to comply with even stricter and more ambitious requirements laid out in the New Bathing Water Directive (Directive 2006/7/EC). This Directive requires more effective monitoring and management of bathing waters, greater public participation and improved information. More information on the new Directive can be found on the bathing water quality website and on

    Member States have until 2015 to implement the new Directive fully but fourteen Member States (Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden) already monitored their bathing areas during the 2009 bathing season according to the new Directive’s requirements.

    Further Information:

    2010 Report:


    [1] Directive 76/160/EEC on the quality of bathing water

    [2] Directive 2006/7/EC on the management of bathing water quality

    ([1])            Delays in commissioning the monitoring programme in Greece meant that 830 bathing waters monitored in 2008 were not adequately monitored in 2009 and are excluded from the overall European results.


    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.

    Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.

    Last update: 30/10/2010  |Top