Greece has thousands of beaches on its massive coastline and almost all of them are of excellent quality

This is where you can find the cleanest bathing waters in the EU

This is where you can find the cleanest bathing waters in the EU

According to a recent report by the European Environmental Agency, around 85% of bathing spots in the EU are of excellent status, but not all waters were made equal

Last week the European Environment Agency (EEA) published its annual report on the quality of bathing water in the European Union. The report shows that in 2021 almost 85% of Europe's bathing sites, both coastal and inland were graded as having an ‘excellent' water quality standard.

So, whether people choose to go to a Greek beach, an Austrian lake or a German river this summer, they can do that with the confidence that the water is clean. In fact, Austria offers the cleanest bathing waters in the whole EU. Sea-lovers, should not fear though, as Malta and Greece are not far behind.

Additionally, according to Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, the continuous assessment and implementation of water quality standards, has led to a gradual, across the board improvement in Europe’s bathing sports over the past 40 Years. The share of excellent bathing waters has been continuously improving for nearly the past 20 years.

However, not all waters are equal, as the report found that an impressive 88% of coastal sites got the highest rating, compared to 78.2% of inland sites. The disparity is largely due to the natural self-purification cycles present in seas and oceans.

Many central European freshwater bathing spots are located on relatively small lakes and ponds as well as rivers with a low flow. These are more prone to bouts of pollution due to droughts or heavy summer rains.  

The cleanest bathing waters in Europe

In 2021, there were four countries where 95% of bathing waters were classified as excellent. These were Austria, Greece, Malta and Croatia. Austria is definitely the outlier here, as all of its waters are inland, while according to the research, an impressive 97.7% of spots were considered to have excellent, clean bathing water.

The runner ups to the big four are Malta, Bulgaria, Romania and Luxembourg, where all locations were classified as at least sufficient, making them a safe bet to dip your toes in, wherever you find yourself.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, there are six countries where 3% or more of the bathing waters are of poor quality. These are Estonia (two locations - 3.1%), France (99 locations or 3.0%), the Netherlands (34 locations or 4.6%), Latvia (two locations or 3.6%), Slovakia (one location or 3.1%) and Sweden (16 locations or 3.5%).

Swimming in sites with poor water quality can result in illness and places where this is the case must be closed for the season. Furthermore, countries need to institute measures to reduce pollution and reduce health hazards, according to the European Environment Agency’s Bathing Water Directive.

The good news is that if you are worried about the quality of your local beach or your chosen vacation destination, you do not need to guess and speculate. The EEA has launched an online tool, that lets you see all the registered bathing spots across the European Union and gauge their quality.



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