A report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that more than 85 per cent of beaches and swimming spots in Europe met the European Union’s most stringent ‘Excellent’ bathing water quality standards in 2016.

Forty years ago, large quantities of untreated or partially treated municipal and industrial waste water were discharged into water. The latest annual bathing water quality report published on 23 May 2017 confirms a positive trend of increasingly cleaner bathing water across Europe since that time.

The assessment compiled analyses of water sampled at more than 2,000 coastal and inland bathing sites across the EU, Albania and Switzerland in 2016 and gives a good indication where the best sites with the highest water quality are likely to be found this summer.

More European sites were deemed of ‘Excellent’ quality – that is mostly free from pollutants that are harmful to human health and the environment – than in 2015 and previous years. And very few fall short of the minimum ‘Poor’ standard - over 96 per cent of bathing water sites met minimum quality requirements set out in the EU’s Bathing Water Directive.

The report includes a breakdown of results in each country, including an interactive map. Of 631 bathing sites assessed in the UK in 2016, 411 were found to meet 'excellent' standards, 157 of 'good' quality, 41 were deemed ‘sufficient’, 20 ‘poor’ and two, unclassifiable.

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “The excellent quality of European Bathing Water sites is not by chance. It is the result of hard work by dedicated professionals. It shows the importance of nurturing EU policy that promotes green jobs. Water technicians, flood protectors, environmental chemists, waste water managers – all play an essential role in keeping bathing water quality high.”

Last week, the water utility for Southeast England, Southern Water, announced a £31.5 million investment into bringing seven beaches to Excellent standard following a groundbreaking investigation into sources of pollution at its bathing water areas.

Photo © Peter Kristensen