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More UK bathing sites record "excellent" ratings but fall short of the best in Europe
Just over 63% of UK bathing waters site met the European Union's highest ‘excellent' and most stringent quality standards for water cleanliness in 2018, according to figures published today. This is an improvement on 2017 ratings, but still falls short of the EU excellent average of around 85%, with four EU countries (Cyprus, Malta, Austria and Greece) achieving the highest rating for 95% of their bathing sites. However, 96.4% of UK bathing sites met the minimum quality requirements, better than the EU average of 95.4%. The European Bathing Water Quality Report provides a good indication of where the best quality bathing waters are likely to be found this summer.
Amongst the top inland bathing spots were London's Hampstead Heath Ponds. The Men's Pond recorded an "excellent" rating whilst the mixed and ladies ponds were rated as "good" with the Serpentine achieving a "sufficient" rating.
Whilst the fast majority of the 644 bathing waters identified and reported by the UK, (2.9% of all bathing waters in Europe), 21 bathing sites were identified as "poor".
The bathing waters were quality classified according to the two microbiological parameters (Escherichia coli and Intestinal enterococci) defined in the Bathing Water Directive.
This interactive map provides a snap shot of the 21,831 EU bathing sites monitored.
More detailed information on bathing waters of the United Kingdom is available at the national bathing water portals
The quality of Europe's bathing sites has vastly improved over the last 40 years in part to the EU's bathing water directive. The legislation introduced effective monitoring and management and coupled with investments in urban waste water treatment has led to a drastic reduction in untreated or partially treated municipal and industrial waste ending up in waters. Under the rules, local authorities collect water samples at officially identified bathing sites throughout the swimming season. Samples are analysed for two types of bacteria that indicate pollution from sewage or livestock.
Bathing water quality is classified, depending on the levels of faecal bacteria detected, as 'excellent', 'good', 'sufficient' or 'poor'. Where water is classified as 'poor', member states should ban bathing or advising against it, provide appropriate information to the public, as well as taking corrective measures.
More background on what the EU has done to protect the health of swimmers here.