Water quality excellent at most of Europe’s bathing sites. Report
For many Europeans, summer holidays revolve around bathing and water activities. So it is natural that tourists have a keen interest in the quality of the bathing waters at this time of year. A new report assesses bathing water quality in 2013 in all EU Member States plus Albania and Switzerland, indicating where the best quality bathing is likely to be found this year.
Bathing waters can be rated ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’. The ratings are based on levels of two types of bacteria which indicate pollution from sewage or livestock. These bacteria can cause illness (vomiting and diarrhoea) if swallowed.
Bathing water ratings do not consider litter, pollution and other aspects harming the natural environment. While most bathing sites are clean enough to protect human health, many of the ecosystems in Europe’s water bodies are in a worrying state. This is evident in Europe’s seas – a recent assessment found that Europe’s marine ecosystems are threatened by climate change, pollution, overfishing and acidification. Many of these pressures are set to increase.
The annual bathing water quality report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) tracks the water quality at 22 000 bathing sites across the EU, Switzerland and lbania. Alongside the report, the EEA has published an interactive map showing how each bathing site performed in 2013.
All the bathing sites in Cyprus and Luxembourg were deemed ‘excellent’. These countries were followed by Malta (99 % deemed excellent), Croatia (95 %) and Greece (93 %). At the other end of the scale, European Union Member States with the highest proportion of sites with a ‘poor’ status were Estonia (6 %), the Netherlands (5 %), Belgium (4 %), France (3 %), Spain (3 %) and Ireland (3 %).
“It’s good that the quality of European bathing waters continues to be of a high standard. But we cannot afford to be complacent with such a precious resource as water. We must continue to ensure that our bathing and drinking water as well as our aquatic ecosystems are fully protected,” stated EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik.
“Europe’s bathing water has improved over the last two decades – we are no longer discharging such high quantities of sewage directly into water bodies. Today’s challenge comes from short-term pollution loads during heavy rain and flooding. This can overflow sewage systems and wash faecal bacteria from farmland into the rivers and seas,” explained Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director.
At coastal beaches, water quality was slightly better, with 85 % of sites classified as excellent. All coastal beaches in Slovenia and Cyprus were classified as excellent. Inland, bathing water quality seems to have been slightly lower than the average. Luxembourg was the only country to receive ‘excellent’ for all its inland bathing sites, with Denmark close behind with 94 % rated excellent. Germany achieved this top rating at 92 % of almost 2 000 inland bathing sites.
The proportion of sites passing the minimum requirements in 2013 was roughly the same as 2012. However, the proportion of ‘excellent’ sites increased from 79 % in 2012 to 83 % in 2013.