The first European bathing water legislation, the 'Bathing Water Directive' [1] came into force in 1975. Its main objectives are to safeguard public health and protect the aquatic environment in coastal and inland areas from pollution. Bathing waters can be coastal waters or inland waters (rivers, lakes).

To be covered by the Directive, including its mandatory quality standards as well as its monitoring and information obligations, bathing must either be explicitly authorised, or not prohibited and traditionally practiced by a large number of people. Swimming pools and waters for therapeutic purposes are not covered. The period during which bathers can be expected  depends largely on local bathing rules and weather conditions. A bathing season can also vary within a Member State. In the European Union it generally runs from the end of May until the end of September.

New European legislation on bathing water was adopted in 2006[2]. The 'New Bathing Water Directive' updates the measures of the 1975 legislation and simplifies its management and surveillance methods. It also provides a more proactive approach to informing the public about water quality using four quality categories for bathing waters — 'poor', 'sufficient', 'good' and 'excellent'. The new European legislation was transposed into national law in 2008 but Member States have until December 2014 to implement it.

See also EU Commission's Bathing Water Homepage

[1] Directive 76/160/EEC concerning the quality of bathing water.

[2] Directive 2006/7/EC concerning the management of bathing water quality and repealing Directive 76/160/EEC.


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