Personal tools

Subscriptions
Sign up to receive our reports (print and/or electronic) and quarterly e-newsletter.
Follow us
Twitter icon Twitter
Facebook icon Facebook
YouTube icon YouTube channel
RSS logo RSS Feeds
More

Write to us Write to us

For the public:


For media and journalists:

Contact EEA staff
Contact the web team
FAQ

Call us Call us

Reception:

Phone: (+45) 33 36 71 00
Fax: (+45) 33 36 71 99


next
previous
items

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sound and independent information
on the environment

You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Bathing water quality / Bathing water quality (CSI 022) - Assessment published Jan 2009

Bathing water quality (CSI 022) - Assessment published Jan 2009

Topics: , ,

Generic metadata

Topics:

Water Water (Primary topic)

Coasts and seas Coasts and seas

Tags:
water | soer2010 | csi
DPSIR: State
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 022
 
Contents
 

Key policy question: Is bathing water quality improving?

Key messages

The quality of water at designated bathing beaches in Europe (coastal and inland) has improved throughout the 1990s into 2000's. In 2006, 96 % of coastal bathing waters and 89 % of inland bathing waters complied with the mandatory standards.

Percentage compliance of EU coastal and inland bathing waters with mandatory standards of the bathing water directive, 1992 to 2006 for EU-25

Note: 1992 to 1994, 12 EU Member States; 1995/96, 14 EU Member States; 1997 to 2003, 15 EU Member States; 2004, 21 EU Member States; 2005/06, 25 EU Member States

Data source:

DG Environment from annual Member State s reports

Downloads and more info

Percentage of EU coastal and inland bathing waters meeting the non-mandatory guide levels of the bathing water directive, 1992 to 2006 for EU-25

Note: 1992 to 1994, 12 EU Member States; 1995/96, 14 EU Member States; 1997 to 2003, 15 EU Member States; 2004, 21 EU Member States; 2005/06, 25 EU Member States

Data source:

DG Environment from annual Member State s reports

Downloads and more info

Percentage of EU coastal bathing waters complying with mandatory standards and meeting guide levels of the bathing waters directive for the year 2006 by country

Note: N/A

Data source:

DG Environment from annual Member State's reports

Downloads and more info

Percentage of EU inland bathing waters complying with mandatory standards and meeting guide levels of the bathing waters directive for the year 2006 by country

Note: N/A

Data source:

DG Environment from annual Member State's reports

Downloads and more info

Key assessment

The quality of EU bathing waters in terms of compliance with the mandatory standards laid down by the Bathing Waters Directive has improved. The original target of the 1976 Directive was for the Member States to comply with standards by the end of 1985. This was not achieved and even by 2006 not all bathing waters were in compliance. Member States have invested significant amounts of money to achieve the prescribed standards. The implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive has also contributed significantly to the general improvement of surface water quality including bathing waters. However, in some cases the installation of sewage treatment works did not result in 100 % compliance with bathing water quality standards probably due to diffuse pollution which still remains a source of microbiological and other contamination (e.g. Morecambe Bay, UK (Jones et al 1999). The slight downturn in the compliance rate between 2003 and 2005 in inland waters reflects the inclusion of bathing waters the new EU Member States where compliance is generally lower than in the former EU15 Member States. It may well be that levels of sewage treatment in these countries were lower then in the old EU Member States. In 2006, the compliance rate of mandatory standards for inland bathing waters has increased in comparison to 2005. The compliance rate in the coastal bathing waters is stable in the last 10 years.

Some of the parameters listed in the 1976 Directive are robust and analytical methodology not fully developed (e.g. for monitoring viruses). Therefore compliance with the mandatory standards does not necessarily mean that there is no risk to human health. In fact, a number of studies have shown that the concentration of faecal streptococci in bathing water is a more useful indication of the likelihood of illness than faecal coliforms (e.g. Cabelli, 1983 and Kay et al, 1994). There is a guide value in the directive for faecal streptococci (100 per 100ml) but Kay et al (1994) found there was a significantly increased risk of gastroenteritis when faecal streptococci count was greater than 40ml per 100ml. That means that reaching the standards does not necessarily protect human health. The new Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) introduces a higher health standard than the old directive thereby should reduce likelihood of illness. In the new Bathing Water Directive two mandatory standards of microbiological indicators for faecal contamination, E. Coli and Intestinal Enterococci, are going to be used. This simplification reflects recognition that faecal material, for instance due to inadequate sewage treatment and pollution from animal waste, is the primary health threat to bathers. Therefore compliance with the mandatory standards will give better information in regard to risk to human health. The new Bathing Water Directive will repeal the old one (Directive 76/160/EEC) by the end of 2014 at latest.

Despite the significant improvement in bathing water quality, 12 % of Europe's coastal bathing waters and 36 % of Europe's inland bathing beaches still did not meet (non-mandatory and more ambitious) guide values in 2006 (Fig. 2).

In contrary to the mandatory level standards, the achievement of (non-mandatory) guide levels standards has been much lower. This is probably because the achievement of the guide levels would entail considerably more expenditure by Member States for sewage treatment works and the control of diffuse pollution sources. As for the mandatory standards, there was the decrease in the compliance rate with the guide level between 2003 and 2005 in inland waters, as new EU10 Member States together (in general) have lower compliance than the former EU15 Member States. In 2006, the decrease stopped. The compliance rate in coastal waters has stablised in the last four years. 

Three countries, Netherlands, Slovenia and Lithuania (the last two with less than 20 bathing waters), achieved 100 % compliance with mandatory standards in their coastal bathing waters in 2006, while Greece and United Kingdom almost achieved it (99.7 and 99.6 %, respectively). The worst performance in terms of coastal waters and mandatory standards was found in Poland with 85.7 % compliant bathing waters in 2006 (Fig. 3). The differences among EU Member States in regard to guide level values are much higher then in regard to mandatory values. In general guide levels values were met in far fewer coastal bathing waters than were the mandatory standards. The best compliance with guide levels was found in Cyprus (99 %) and the worst in Belgium (22,5 %).

Two countries, Ireland and Estonia, achieved 100 % compliance with mandatory standards in their inland bathing waters in 2006 (Fig. 4). It should, however, be noted that these countries have designated one of the least number of inland bathing waters in the EU (9 and 38, respectively) compared with Germany (1 563) and France (1 313) which have designated the highest number.
Luxembourg had the lowest compliance rate (35 %) in regard to mandatory limit values for its inland bathing waters in 2006. In 2006 lower compliance rate then 70% had also Italy (61,5%), Poland (65,6%) and Greece (66,7%).

As with coastal waters, in general, the guide levels were met in far fewer inland bathing waters as compared to mandatory standards. Denmark had 90,2 % of its inland bathing waters meeting the guide levels (the best). In 2006 more then 80% compliance rate in regard to the guide limits values had also Estonia, whereas Luxembourg only 20 % (the worst). Lower then 50% compliance rate had also United Kingdom (27,3%), Poland (34,4%), Spain (40,9%), Belgium (44%), Slovenia (44,4%) and Lithuania (45,8%).

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Peter Kristensen

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2010 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 1 year in April-June (Q2)
Document Actions
Filed under: , ,

Comments

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100