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Bathing water quality

What's new ?

  • 04/03/2021: The combined evaluation and impact assessment roadmap of the review of the Bathing Water Directive has been published for comments on the Have your say portal. Feedback can be provided by 01/04/2021.
  • 26/02/2021: The EEA published on its website the report: Bathing water management in Europe: Successes and challenges which  showcases the success story of the improvements in bathing water quality since the introduction of the EU Bathing Water Directive in 1976, while also identifying challenges for future bathing water management.
  • 08/06/2020: The European Environment Agency and the European Commission published the European bathing water quality assessment.

    Figure 1: Proportion of bathing waters with excellent quality in European countries in 2019

    Source: WISE bathing water quality database (data from 2019 annual reports by EU Member States[1], Albania and Switzerland).

    Note: The assessment covers 22 295 bathing waters in Europe that were reported to EEA for the 2019 season. In the EU Member States, there were in total 21 981 bathing waters (Austria: 261, Belgium: 115, Bulgaria: 95, Croatia: 988, Cyprus: 113, Czechia: 153, Denmark: 1 022, Estonia: 54, Finland: 301, France: 3 348, Germany: 2 291,  Greece: 1 634, Hungary: 257, Ireland: 147, Italy: 5 535, Latvia: 57, Lithuania: 117, Luxembourg: 17, Malta: 87, The Netherlands: 724, Poland: 606, Portugal: 614, Romania: 50, Slovakia: 32, Slovenia: 47, Spain: 2 234, Sweden: 438, The United Kingdom: 644). Outside the EU, 314 bathing waters were reported (Albania: 119 and Switzerland: 195). In Poland, only 187 out of 606 bathing waters were quality assessed which explains the low proportion of excellent quality in this country. The majority of them were newly identified and did not have complete sets of samples yet.

    1 This briefing presents data from 2019 when the UK was still an EU Member State, therefore data about the UK bathing waters are included under ‘EU Member States’.
  • 2018-2019: In preparation of the evaluation of the Bathing Water Directive, the results of two projects are online:
    - The cooperation between the Commission and the World Health Organisation resulted in the WHO Recommendations on updating Annex I of the Bathing Water Directive. The document finalised in 2018 presents the recent scientific literature on the existing Bathing Water Directive parameters, examines the feasibility of possible additional parameters and considers wider emerging issues.
    - The ‘reality check’ of the implementation of the Bathing Water Directive in the EU carried out in 2017-2018, focused on practical challenges linked to monitoring and assessment of bathing waters and resulted in an EU overview report and 28 country reports


EU at the forefront to protect bathers' health

The latest EEA report confirms that bathing waters in Europe are of high quality, with 95 % of these sites meeting minimum water quality standards set out in EU legislation.

Bathing water policy is one of the success stories in EU water policy and important to protect human health and the environment. 

© Peter Kristensen

Since the 1970s, the EU has had rules in place to safeguard public health and clean bathing waters. The revised Bathing Water Directive (BWD) of 2006 updated and simplified these rules. It requires Members States to monitor and assess the bathing water for at least two parameters of (faecal) bacteria. In addition, they must inform the public about bathing water quality and beach management, through the so-called bathing water profiles. These profiles contain for instance information on the kind of pollution and sources that affect the quality of the bathing water and are a risk to bathers' health (such as waste water discharges).

In this light, the Commission introduced a symbol on bathing water classification in 2011.

The BWD also complements other environmental policy:

Information to the public: the bathing water report

Every year the Commission and the European Environment Agency publish a summary report on the quality of bathing water and national country reports based on the information provided by Member States. The report tracks the water quality at more than 22 200 bathing sites across the EU, Switzerland and Albania.

EU Reports: 2020 -2019 - 2018- 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005 and national country reports.


eeasWhat's the status of your favorite bathing spot?

Check out the EEAs interactive map.

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