Europe’s bathing waters remain safe

The vast majority of bathing water sites in Europe met the European Union’s most stringent ‘excellent’ bathing quality standards in 2023, according to the latest annual Bathing Water report published today. This represents 85.4% of the EU’s popular bathing waters. As much as 96% of all officially identified bathing waters in the EU met the minimum quality standards, with only 1.5% rated as ‘poor’.

The assessment, put together by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in cooperation with the Commission, highlights where swimmers can find safe bathing sites in Europe this summer. It focuses specifically on safety for bathing, through monitoring of bacteria which can cause serious illness in people, rather than general water quality.

The highest share of excellent bathing waters is found in Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and Austria. In Belgium, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Malta, Austria and Romania, all officially identified bathing waters met at least the minimum quality standard in 2023.

The bathing quality of coastal water is generally better compared to inland water. In 2023, 89% of coastal bathing sites classified are of excellent quality, compared to just under 79% of inland bathing waters.

Since the adoption of the Bathing Water Directive in 2006, the share of bathing waters with poor water quality has dropped in the past decade and is now stable since 2015. However, health risks from swimming in bathing waters are an ongoing issue with 321 ‘poor’ sites in the EU reported in 2023.