With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for bathers.
Europe’s bathing water is much cleaner today than previously. Europeans can now swim in increasingly cleaner coastal and inland bathing areas, thanks to EU laws and national water policies that protect our health and the environment.
In 1975, environmental and health concerns led to the first EU legislation on bathing water. It set out minimum quality standards for clean bathing water across Europe and was revised in 2006 to introduce quality management and simplify controls.
Under the EU rules, countries have to monitor bathing water quality according to clear procedures, improve the management of water resources, provide timely information to the public, and report annually to the EU. Water quality is assessed using microbiological data, and rated as excellent, good, sufficient or poor, depending on the level of pollution. Preventive measures are taken if water quality is poor (banning bathing, closing the site, informing people), alongside tackling the pollution and health threats.
In 2016, around 21 000 European sites reported on their water quality – 10.8 % were classified as having ‘sufficient’ and ‘good’ water quality, and only 1.4 % were rated as ‘poor’. The assessment highlights that 85.5 % of the sites monitored were free from harmful water pollutants, as they met the highest, ‘excellent’ quality standard (an increase from 78.1 % in 2011).
- European Environment Agency, State of bathing water, https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/water/status-and-monitoring/state-of-bathing-water/state/state-of-bathing-water-3
- European Commission’s Directorate General for Environment website, Bathing water quality, http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-bathing/index_en.html
- European Commission’s Directorate General for Environment website, Legal Obligations under the EU Bathing Water Directive, http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-bathing/summary.html