Europe has a great diversity of beautiful beaches and bathing areas, and each year millions of Europeans spend their weekends at their local beach or their holidays cooling down by the water. Water quality at beaches across Europe improved significantly over the past few decades, thanks to EU policies and actions by Member States.

Be it a lake in Finland, an Aegean island or the Copenhagen harbour, every year millions of Europeans are enjoying a dip in the water, with the knowledge that the water is clean and safe in every European country.

Thanks to EU legislation and effective implementation by Members States, the bathing water quality improved significantly over the last four decades. Today more than 95% of bathing sites meet the minimum standards set by EU legislation.

The water we swim in can be affected by many factors, including storm surges, pollution, marine litter and microplastics. Pollution from shipping also affects air and water quality, and life in our seas, lakes and rivers.

Member States monitor the quality of bathing water during the bathing season. This data is then reported, analysed and communicated in order to assess the overall water quality for a given bathing season. This assessment is a good indication of the bathing water quality for the coming season.

The assessment for the 2022 bathing season, including country fact sheets can be read here. For previous bathing seasons, you can find our assessments here.

Every year, we compile and assess the quality of bathing water across Europe for the preceding year. In 2022:

  • The bathing water quality was monitored at 21,973 bathing sites across Europe.
  • 95.9% of sites monitored met minimum water quality standards.
  • 85,7% of sites had excellent water quality.
  • Only 1.5% of bathing water sites in Europe were of poor quality.

The EU Bathing Water Directive covers bathing water sites in all EU Member States, Albania and Switzerland throughout 2022.

According to our assessment, coastal sites generally fare better than inland sites. In 2021, 88,9% of the EU coastal bathing sites were classified as being of excellent quality compared to 79.3% of inland sites.

In four countries — Cyprus, Austria, Greece and Croatia — 95% or more of bathing water sites were of excellent quality. Moreover, in Malta, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Luxembourg all bathing water sites assessed met at least the minimum standard of sufficient quality in 2022. . The share of poor-quality sites has also dropped since 2013. In 2022, poor bathing waters constituted 1.5% of all sites in the EU, compared to 2% in 2013.

The quality of Europe's bathing water has improved over past decades due to systematic monitoring and management introduced under the EU’s Bathing Water Directive and other EU environmental laws, like the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.

EU bathing water legislation specifies if bathing water quality can be classified as 'excellent', 'good', 'sufficient' or 'poor', depending on the levels of pollution, such as faecal bacteria.

The Bathing Water Directive looks at other types of pollution affecting water, too. If water is classified as 'poor', EU Member States should take certain measures, such as banning bathing or advising against it, providing information to the public, and taking corrective actions.

These rules have led to a drastic reduction of untreated or partially treated municipal and industrial wastewater found in bathing water. As a result, swimming is possible in many cities, even those that were previously heavily polluted.

The European Environment Agency compiles data submitted by Member States and produces an annual assessment for the previous bathing season. Together with the European Commission, this assessment is communicated to the public ahead of the coming bathing season.

Summer 2022


bathing sites

monitored across Europe


of bathing sites

had excellent water quality


of bathing sites

had poor water quality

Up for a swim: which EU country has the best water quality?

Details on all Member States' bathing waters for the 2022 season can be found in the national bathing water reports.

Each report contains details on monitoring bathing water quality in the specific country and an assessment of the 2022 results and the trends in bathing water quality.

Proportion of bathing waters with excellent quality in European countries in 2022

Source: WISE bathing water quality database (data from 2022 annual reports by EU-27 Member States, Albania and Switzerland).

Check the quality of the bathing water near you.

Marine litter: Where does it come from?

There are no surprises: land-based sources account for a massive 80% of marine litter in Europe, and approximately 85% of it is plastic, according to the EEA web report 'From source to sea — The untold story of marine litter.' Packaging and small plastic items make up nearly 80% of this plastic waste.

The new EEA report is the first Europe-wide study of its kind taking a holistic look at how this litter is created and ends up in our European seas via our rivers.

More information