Rising tide of water quality improvements across the EU

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Series Details Vol.7, No.21, 24.5.01, p4
Publication Date 24/05/2001
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Date: 24/05/01

THE water quality of the EU's beaches is generally improving with 97% now free of sewage contamination.

The Bathing Water Report for the year 2000, presented by Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström this week, shows a continuing upward trend in the quality of both coastal and fresh waters.

But the picture is not the same across all member states: Portugal's coastal bathing sites were found to have more harmful bacteria in 2000 than in the year before and there was a "considerable" deterioration in its fresh waters.

The annual water quality report measures the compliance of member states with the EU's Bathing Water Directive; last year 11,592 beaches and 4,338 fresh water sites were surveyed.

Wallström says the trend of improvement since the European Commission began issuing annual reports 18 years ago is proof the directive is working.

In 1992, 85% of coastal waters had good quality bathing water; in 2000, the figure was 97%. Only 50% of inland waters met the standards of the directive in 1993, while in 2000 94% achieved their targets.

"Children and adults alike should be able to enjoy swimming without worrying about stomach infections from sewage," said Wallström.

Of the 15 member states, Belgium was the only country where all coastal waters achieved 100% compliance. But standards at its fresh water sites deteriorated for the third year in a row.

Denmark has managed to break a negative slide for its coastal waters with an improvement after three consecutive years of decline.

More of Germany's beaches were also cleaner, with a compliance rate of 97% - up 3% - and the standard of its fresh waters remained the same at 92%.

Spain's beaches showed a small improvement at 98%, but only 79% of its fresh waters came up to scratch.

Only 69% of Portugal's inland bathing sites met the directive and 92% of its beaches came up to scratch compared with 94% in 1999.

The UK's beaches are cleaner - up 3% to 94.5% - but its other bathing sites fell to 82% from 91% last year and full compliance in 1998.

Italy's coastal water results were slightly poorer but it is one of the few with an equally high compliance rate for fresh and coastal water - 95.6% of coastal waters and 95.8% of fresh waters came up to scratch.

France did not submit any results for 2000 due to industrial action.

The Bathing Water Report for the year 2000 shows a continuing upward trend in the quality of both coastal and fresh waters.

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