The annual Bathing Water report published today shows that in 2020 almost 83% of Europe`s bathing water sites met the European Union`s most stringent ‘excellent` water quality standards. The latest assessment, put together by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in cooperation with the European Commission, is based on the 2020 monitoring of 22,276 bathing sites across Europe. These cover the EU Member States, Albania and Switzerland throughout 2020. The findings of this year`s report will be presented on 2 June at a session during EU Green Week, focusing this year on zero pollution.
According to the report two thirds of bathing sites are located along Europe`s coasts. The results give a good indication as to where swimmers can find the best quality bathing waters. The quality of several bathing waters could not be classified in the current assessment, as pandemic restrictions led to an inadequate number of samples being collected.
The European Commission notes that in 2020, 296 or 1.3% of bathing water sites in Europe were of poor quality. While the share of poor quality sites has dropped slightly since 2013, problems persist especially in assessing the sources of pollution and putting in place integrated water management measures. At bathing sites for which the origins or causes of pollution are difficult to identify, special studies of pollution sources are needed.
The share of ‘excellent` coastal and inland swimming sites has stabilised in recent years at around 85% and in 2020 was 82.8% across Europe. The minimum ‘sufficient` water quality standards were met at 93% of the sites monitored in 2020, and in five countries - Cyprus, Austria, Greece, Malta and Croatia - 95 % or more bathing waters were of excellent quality.
Especially in relation to Cyprus, 112 beaches are monitored, from which 963 water samples were taken and 100% of them, ie 112, are considered excellent. A beach that was on the 2019 list was removed in 2020.
There are also 1634 beaches in Greece, with 9887 samples taken, of which 1586 (97.1%) are "excellent" and 34 (2.1%) are simply "good". 14 beaches could not be classified (0.9%).
The bathing waters are quality classified according to the two microbiological parameters (Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci) defined in the Bathing Water Directive. 99.1% of all reported bathing waters (includes those that could not be quality classified due to lack of samples) are in line with the minimum quality standards of the Directive, thus classified “sufficient” or better.
As part of the Zero Pollution Action Plan and in line with the Biodiversity Strategy the Commission has recently launched a review of the Bathing Water Directive. The objective is to assess whether the current rules are still fit for purpose to protect public health and improve water quality or if there is a need to improve the existing framework, notably by addressing new parameters. As a part of this process, the Commission will soon engage with the stakeholder community via an online public consultation.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, said that “bathing water quality in Europe remains high and it`s a good news for Europeans, who will be heading to beaches and bathing sites this summer. This is the result of more than 40 years of Bathing Water Directive, hard work by dedicated professionals and cooperation. The Zero Pollution Action Plan adopted in May will help to keep the waters healthy and safe and our seas and rivers clean.”
Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, added that "the quality of European bathing waters remains high after four decades of action aimed at preventing and reducing pollution. EU law has not only helped raised the overall quality, but also helped identify areas where specific action is needed.”
Alongside this year`s Bathing Water Report, the EEA has also released an updated interactive map showing the performance of each bathing site. Updated country reports are also available, as well as more information on the implementation of the directive in countries.