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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Bathing water quality / Bathing water quality (CSI 022) - Assessment published Oct 2012

Bathing water quality (CSI 022) - Assessment published Oct 2012

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Generic metadata

Topics:

Water Water (Primary topic)

Coasts and seas Coasts and seas

Tags:
soer2010 | csi | freshwater quality | water | bathing water | bathing water quality | thematic assessments | freshwater
DPSIR: State
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 022
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
1990-2011
Geographic coverage:
Austria Belgium Bulgaria Croatia Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Sweeden Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Montenegro Netherlands Poland Portugal Romania Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland United Kingdom
 
Contents
 

Key policy question: Is bathing water quality improving?

Key messages

  • The quality of water at designated bathing waters in Europe (coastal and inland) has improved significantly since 1990.
  • Compliance with mandatory values in EU coastal bathing waters increased from just below 80 % in 1990 to 93.1 % in 2011. Compliance with guide values likewise rose from over 68 % to 80.1 % in 2011. 
  • Compliance with mandatory values in EU inland bathing waters increased from over 52 % in 1990 to 89.9 % in 2011. Similarly, the rate of compliance with guide values moved from over 36 % in 1990 to 70.4 % in 2011.

Coastal bathing water quality in the European Union, 1990-2011

Note: The figure shows the bathing water quality in different European countries over time: 1990, 7 EU Member States; 1991 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; 2007 to 2011, 27 EU Member States. Five Member States (Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg and Slovakia) have no coastal bathing waters. The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Inland bathing water quality in the European Union, 1990-2011

Note: The figure shows the bathing water quality in different European countries over time: 1990, 7 EU Member States; 1991 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; 2007 to 2011, 27 EU Member States. No inland bathing waters are reported from three Member States (Cyprus, Malta and Romania). The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Percentage of European coastal bathing waters complying with mandatory values (or with at least sufficient quality) and meeting guide values (or with excellent quality) for the year 2011 by country

Note: Countries arranged by the percentage of compliance with mandatory values (or at least sufficient quality). Five Member States (Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg and Slovakia) and Switzerland have no coastal bathing waters. The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Percentage of European inland bathing waters complying with mandatory values (or with at least sufficient quality) and meeting guide values (or with excellent quality) for the year 2011 by country

Note: Countries arranged by the percentage of compliance with mandatory values (or at least sufficient quality). No inland bathing waters are reported from three Member States (Cyprus, Malta and Romania) and Montenegro. The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Percentage of European coastal bathing waters complying with mandatory values (or with at least sufficient quality) and meeting guide values (or with excellent quality) for the year 2011 by sea region

Note: Sea regions arranged by the percentage of compliance with mandatory values (or at least sufficient quality). EU Member States, Croatia and Montenegro. Five Member States (Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg and Slovakia) and Switzerland have no coastal bathing waters. The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Percentage of European inland bathing waters complying with mandatory values (or with at least sufficient quality) and meeting guide values (or with excellent quality) for the year 2011 by sea region

Note: Sea regions arranged by the percentage of compliance with mandatory values (or at least sufficient quality). EU Member States, Croatia and Switzerland. No inland bathing waters are reported from three Member States (Cyprus, Malta and Romania) and Montenegro. The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Key assessment

Key assessment

Introduction to Bathing Water Directives

The first European bathing water legislation, the ‘Bathing Water Directive’ was adopted in 1975 and came into force in 1976. Its main objectives are to safeguard public health and protect the aquatic environment in coastal and inland areas from pollution. Bathing waters covered by the Bathing Water Directive can be coastal waters or inland waters (rivers, natural lakes, reservoirs and ponds) in which bathing is explicitly authorised by the competent authorities of each Member State, or not prohibited and traditionally practiced by a large number of bathers. Swimming pools and waters for therapeutic purposes are not covered. The period during which bathers can be expected in bathing areas depends largely on local bathing rules and weather conditions. A bathing season can also vary within a Member State. In the European Union it usually runs from the end of May until the end of September. New European legislation on bathing water was adopted in 2006. The ‘New Bathing Water Directive’ updates the measures of the 1975 legislation and simplifies its management and surveillance methods. The new directive requires that EU Member States comply with even stricter requirements and implement effective management of bathing water, public participation and better information dissemination.

Member States have until December 2014 to achieve full implementation of the new bathing water directive. As such Member States could still choose to report either under the old or new bathing water directives until the 2011 bathing season; from the 2012 bathing season reporting under the new directive will become obligatory.

Assessing bathing water quality under the new bathing water directive requires a data set of three or four consecutive years instead of a single year's result as for the old directive. While those data are being compiled, the transition period rules are applied. Comparison of bathing water quality by country is done with integration of three types of assessments. For the 2011 season, bathing water quality has been assessed under the new bathing water directive in 16 European countries. Only three countries - Czech Republic, Romania and the United Kingdom - are still assessed under the old bathing water directive. Eleven countries are assessed under the transition period rules.

Results

See also EEA report: European bathing water quality in 2011

European Union (Figure 1-2)

Europeans have a huge diversity of beautiful beaches and bathing areas at their disposal. In 2011 the 27 EU Member States reported 21 031 bathing waters, of which more than two thirds (69 %) are coastal bathing waters.

Coastal bathing waters

Some 93.1 % of coastal bathing waters achieved at least sufficient quality or complied with the mandatory values (Fig. 1). This was an increase of 1.0 percentage points compared to 2010. Some 80.1 % of coastal bathing waters complied with the more stringent guide values during the 2011 bathing season. The proportion of coastal bathing waters classified as excellent (or compliant with the more stringent guide values) increased by 0.6 percentage points in 2011, compared to 2010.

The EU Member States reported 212 coastal bathing waters (1.5 %) with poor quality or not in compliance with mandatory values in 2011. That represented a 0.3 percentage point increase from 2010. In 1990, 9.2 % of bathing waters did not comply with the bathing water directives' provisions and by 2011 this had fallen to just 1.5 %. There were 139 coastal bathing waters closed in 2011, representing 1.0 % of all coastal bathing waters. This was a 0.7 percentage point increase from 2010 but a 1.3 percentage point decrease from 2009. The remaining coastal bathing waters were insufficiently sampled, not sampled, or newly opened and not yet assessed under the new directive.

Compliance with mandatory values increased from just under 80 % in 1990 to over 95 % in 1999, and has remained quite stable since then. Compliance with guide values likewise rose from 68 % to over 89 % in 2003 and was then nearly constant but dropped below 80 % in 2010. The trend is now positive again.

Inland bathing waters 

In 2011, 89.9 % of inland bathing waters in the European Union had sufficient quality (or were compliant with the mandatory values) during the bathing season (Fig. 2). This was a 0.3 percentage point decrease from 2010, but a 0.5 percentage point increase from 2009. The number of inland bathing waters with excellent quality (or complying with the more stringent guide values) increased by 9.9 percentage points compared to 2010, reaching 70.4 %.

Only 2.4 % of inland bathing areas in the European Union had poor quality (or did not comply with mandatory values) in 2011. This represented a 0.4 percentage point decrease compared to 2010. The share of bathing waters that were banned or closed during the bathing season in 2011 was 1.0 %, a decrease of 0.6 percentage points in comparison to 2010 and a decrease of 3.7 percentage points in comparison to 2009. Out of 6 493 inland bathing waters in the EU, 429 (6.6 %) were classified as insufficiently sampled (meaning more than 41 days between sampling dates), not sampled or not yet possible to assess under the new bathing water directive. That compared to 351 such inland bathing waters in 2010 and 185 in 2009.

The overall quality of inland bathing areas in the EU has markedly improved since 1990 but with greater variations than coastal bathing waters. In 1990, some 52 % of inland bathing areas complied with mandatory values. This proportion reached 90 % by the early 2000s and decreased slightly afterwards before recovering to 92 % in 2008. Similarly, the rate of compliance with guide values rose from 36.4 % in 1990 to 68 % in 2003. In 2010, the percentage of inland bathing waters complying with guide values dropped to 60.5 %. In 2011, the quality increased by 9.9 percentage points, reaching 70.4 % - the highest level so far recorded. Furthermore, the number of inland bathing areas not complying with mandatory values decreased from 11.9 % in 1990 to 2.4 % in 2011, which constituted the lowest level to date.

Assessment by countries (Figure 3-4)

See also WISE interactive map: State of bathing waters

Coastal bathing waters

A total of 24 countries reported coastal bathing waters in 2011. Italy (4 902), Greece (2 149), France (2 029), Spain (1 927), Denmark (1 012), Croatia (906) and the United Kingdom (605) have the highest number of coastal bathing waters. Countries with less than 50 coastal bathing waters are Romania (49), Belgium (42), Latvia (32), Estonia (27), Slovenia (21) and Lithuania (16). There are no coastal bathing waters in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Switzerland. 

Croatia, Malta, Slovenia, Romania, Lithuania, Poland and Belgium achieved at least sufficient quality or complied with the mandatory values in all their coastal bathing waters in 2011 (Fig. 3). At least sufficient or mandatory water quality was below the average of the European Union (93.1 %) in six countries. These were Estonia (92.6 %), Italy (91.9 %), Denmark (91.5 %), Finland (90.6 %), France (85.7 %) and Sweden (79.1 %). 

In Cyprus (99.1 %), Croatia (97.8 %), Malta (97.7 %), Slovenia (95.2 %) and Greece (94.1 %) more than 90 % of bathing waters achieved excellent quality or met the guide values. The excellent or guide water quality was below the average of the European Union (80.1 %) in 11 countries. Countries with less than 60 % of coastal bathing waters having excellent quality or meeting the guide values were Sweden (55.0 %), Bulgaria (50.6 %), Estonia (48.1 %), Latvia (43.8 %) and Belgium (38.1 %). 

Inland bathing waters

A total of 26 countries reported inland bathing waters on lakes and rivers in 2011. Germany and France have the highest number of inland bathing waters (1 938 and 1 304 respectively). The other countries with more than 250 inland bathing waters are Italy (647), the Netherlands (603), Switzerland (352) and Austria (267). Countries with less than 20 inland bathing waters are Latvia (14), the United Kingdom (12), Ireland (nine), Greece (six), Croatia and Bulgaria (both four). The reasons for such low numbers vary by countries. There are no inland bathing waters reported from Cyprus, Malta, Montenegro and Romania. 

In Estonia, Croatia, Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Slovenia and Bulgaria all inland bathing waters achieved at least sufficient quality or complied with the mandatory values in 2011 (Fig. 4). At least sufficient or mandatory water quality was lower than the average of the European Union (89.9 %) in 14 countries. Countries with less than 80 % of inland bathing waters having at least sufficient quality or complying with the mandatory values were Belgium (77.2 %), Spain (75.1 %), Hungary (67.1 %), Luxembourg (55.0 %) and Switzerland (40.3 %). 

As with the coastal bathing waters, the differences among countries in regard to guide values are higher than in regard to mandatory values. In Estonia (92.9 %), Germany (90.2 %), Austria (83.5 %), Denmark (83.1 %) and Finland (80.3 %) more than 80 % of inland bathing waters achieved excellent quality or met the guide values. The excellent or guide water quality was lower than the average of the European Union (70.4 %) in 17 countries. Countries with 50 % or less inland bathing waters having excellent quality or meeting the guide values were Slovenia (50.0 %), Luxembourg (50.0 %), Spain (44.9 %), the Netherlands (44.4 %), Switzerland (37.2 %) and Bulgaria (25.0 %).      

Assessment by sea regions (Figure 5-6): EU27 plus Croatia, Montenegro and Switzerland

Coastal bathing waters

The majority of coastal bathing waters are located on the Mediterranean Sea coasts (9 989), representing almost two thirds of all reported coastal bathing waters in Europe. The number of coastal bathing waters is 2 519 on the Atlantic Ocean coasts and 1 643 on the Greater North Sea coasts. This number is much lower for the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea coasts (1 218 and 138 respectively).

The Black Sea (97.8 %), the Mediterranean Sea (95.5 %) and the Greater North Sea coasts (94.3 %) performed above average in achieving at least sufficient quality or complying with the mandatory values compared to the EU average of 93.1 % and the European average (including Croatia and Montenegro) of 93.5 % in 2011 (Fig. 5). Some 92.4 % of coastal bathing waters on the Baltic Sea coasts and 85.9 % of coastal bathing waters on the Atlantic Ocean coasts achieved at least sufficient quality or complied with the mandatory values.

Some 87.9 % of coastal bathing waters on the Mediterranean Sea coasts achieved excellent quality or met the guide values compared to the EU average of 80.1 % and the European average (including Croatia and Montenegro) of 81.1 %. The excellent or guide water quality was below average on the Atlantic Ocean (72.4 %), the Baltic Sea (68.3 %), the Greater North Sea (64.8 %) and the Black Sea coasts (63.8 %). 

Inland bathing waters

The Greater North Sea catchment area covers the highest number of inland bathing waters in Europe (2 725), accounting for 40 % of all reported inland bathing waters in Europe. There are 1 425 bathing waters in the Mediterranean Sea catchment area. The number of inland bathing waters is 939 in the Black Sea, 897 in the Baltic Sea and 860 in the Atlantic Ocean catchment areas. 

The Baltic Sea (89.6 %), the Black Sea (88.7 %) and the Mediterranean Sea catchment areas (87.6 %) performed above average in achieving at least sufficient quality or complying with the mandatory values compared to the European average (including Croatia and Switzerland) of 87.4 % in 2011 (Fig. 6). Some 86.7 % of inland bathing waters in the Atlantic Ocean catchment area and 86.3 % of inland bathing waters in the Greater North Sea catchment area had at least sufficient or mandatory water quality. A high percentage of insufficiently sampled or not sampled bathing waters in Switzerland (59.1 %) lowers the European average compared to the EU average of 89.9 %. 

As with the coastal bathing waters, the differences among sea regions in regard to guide values are higher compared to the mandatory values. The Black Sea (78.3 %), the Baltic Sea (78.0 %) and the Greater North Sea catchment areas (69.2 %) achieved excellent quality or compliance with the guide values above the European average (including Croatia and Switzerland) of 68.7 %. The Black Sea and the Baltic Sea catchment areas also performed above the average of the European Union of 70.4 %. The excellent or guide water quality was the lowest in the Mediterranean Sea (65.4 %) and the Atlantic Ocean catchment areas (52.4 %). 

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

2012 1.4.1 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 1 year in April-June (Q2)
Document Actions
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100