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The vast majority of the EU’s bathing waters are of excellent quality

The annual Bathing Water report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that in 2021 almost 85 per cent of Europe’s bathing water sites met the European Union’s most stringent excellent water quality standards.

“This report comes as welcome news for those of us booking well-deserved summer holidays at Europe’s beautiful bathing sites,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries. “Whether our destination is a Greek beach, a Hungarian Lake or a French river, we can be sure that the vast majority of bathing waters are of excellent quality. This is good for the environment, for our health and for Europe’s tourist industry as it recovers from the pandemic. We are committed to maintaining these standards and improve further on the way to our zero pollution objective.”

In particular, the quality of coastal sites (88 per cent), which makes up two-thirds of total bathing sites, was generally better than that of inland sites (78.2 per cent). And, overall, the minimum water quality standards were met at 95.2 per cent of sites. Among CEE countries, 90 per cent or more of bathing waters in Croatia and Greece met the excellent quality standard. A great improvement was recorded in Albania, where the number of poor bathing sites dropped significantly since 2015 (39.1 per cent). In 2021, there were only eight poor bathing waters (or 6.7 per cent) thanks to the construction of five wastewater treatment plants in Albania in recent years. 

“This year’s results are proof that over 40 years of EU action to improve the bathing water quality across Europe has benefited our health as well as the environment,” added Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director. “The EU’s Zero Pollution Action Plan and revision of the EU’s Bathing Water Directive will further solidify our commitment to prevent and reduce pollution for decades to come.”

On the other hand, poor bathing waters constituted 1.5 per cent of all sites in the EU, compared to 2 per cent in 2013. However, in six EU countries, this percentage was over 3 per cent, including Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia.

As poor quality is often the result of short-term pollution, the report stressed that better assessments of the sources of pollution and implementing integrated water management measures can help improve water quality.

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