Bathing water – significant improvement in quality of fresh water zones
Significant improvements in the quality of European fresh water bathing zones are indicated in the Commission's 1998 Bathing Water Quality Report, and the UK has for the first time designated some fresh waters as bathing zones. Coastal waters, however, showed only marginal improvement.
At a press conference held on the launch of this report, the Commissioner for the Environment Ritt Bjerregaard said: “My repeated plea for more attention to the vulnerable fresh water bathing areas start to show consistently encouraging results. While during the 1996 bathing season one out of three fresh water zones did not respect the minimum quality requirements. Now two seasons later, more than 86% of the fresh water bathing areas respect the minimum requirements of the Directive.”
Coastal bathing areas
On average, the mandatory quality of coastal bathing areas is only improving marginally. The Commission says it seems as though they have reached their maximum achievable compliance rate: almost 95% of the coastal bathing areas in the European Union meet the minimum standards. However, the Commission says it now would expect countries to do their utmost also to meet the more stringent guide values. Only about 84% have reached these high quality standards.
The weather conditions for certain regions in the EU during the 1998 bathing season, with periods of heavy rainfall, were not always favourable for achieving good results. This is reflected in some of the individual results, but overall the results are said to be encouraging.
- Belgium, which for the first time achieved 100% compliance with the minimum requirements in 1997 has seen a considerable drop in compliance to almost 93%.
- Denmark’s rate of compliance has dropped for the second consecutive year and stands at just over 94% compliance with the minimum requirements.
- The coastal bathing areas of Germany, France and the Netherlands have now all been sufficiently sampled. For Germany this shows a status quo compared with last year. France and the Netherlands have recorded considerably better results, confirming the efforts that have been made by their water managers.
- Greece, Spain, Ireland and Italy have achieved results similar to or marginally better than for the 1997 bathing season.
- Portugal’s constant improvement seems to have stopped, and its level of compliance remains below 90%.
- Finland and Sweden seem to have achieved correct practical implementation of the Directive, but are both still below 90% compliance.
- The United Kingdom has only made a marginal improvement but is also still below 90% compliance.
Fresh water bathing areas
The percentage of insufficiently sampled fresh water beaches fell again, to 5.5%. The Commission says this still represents a very high number and hopes that the next season will finally show that all fresh water bathing areas will be sufficiently sampled.
As for coastal waters, the weather conditions for certain regions in the EU during the 1998 bathing season, with periods of heavy rainfall, were not always favourable for achieving good results. This is reflected in some of the individual results, but overall results are, again, described as encouraging.
- Belgium has confirmed the substantial improvements made in 1997 by increasing the compliance rate to over 96%;
- Denmark has achieved only a marginal improvement with just over 90% compliance with the minimum requirements.
- Germany in particular seem to have suffered from the bad weather and has suffered a slight setback compared with 1997.
- Greece on the contrary has achieved a “remarkable improvement”, and its four inland bathing zones are now all complying with the minimum requirements.
- Spain shows a marginal improvement, but 25% of its freshwater zones still do not meet the minimum requirements.
- France has improved on all fronts: compliance with the minimum requirements stands at over 90%, and there has been a considerable reduction in the number of insufficiently sampled zones. However, the number of zones meeting the stricter guide values is still “rather disappointing”.
- Ireland has again achieved 100% compliance for its nine inland bathing areas.
- Italy has suffered a slight setback for the first time in many years.
- Luxembourg shows no improvement and remains at 85% compliance.
- The Netherlands has improved the sampling arrangements and its compliance rate, as for its coastal waters, but still has too many insufficiently sampled zones.
- Austria did not manage to confirm the extremely good results of its first appearance in last year’s report.
- The situation in Portugal is worrying, with a further deterioration in fresh water bathing areas: 16 of the 24 freshwater zones in Portugal do not meet the minimum requirements;
- Finland and Sweden seem to have achieved correct practical implementation of the Directive, as for coastal waters, but Finland is only just above 80% compliance and Sweden has not even reached 80% compliance with the minimum requirements.
- The United Kingdom has for the first time presented results for nine fresh water bathing zones. All of them meet the minimum requirements, but only two the stricter guide values. The Commission hopes that these nine zones are only the start and that further zones will be identified for the next season. Previously, the UK had refused to acknowledge any inland waters as bathing zones.
Despite the encouraging results, the Commission says a lot still needs to be done for fresh water bathing zones. Commissioner Bjerregaard therefore reiterated her plea and encouraged everyone, governments, environmental associations and individual citizens to put a big effort into improving the quality of fresh water zones.
Now that the majority of coastal bathing waters meet the minimum requirements of the Directive, the Commissioner hopes that Member States will continue their efforts and will now aim at a higher rate of compliance with the stricter guide values.