EU reports on water quality

Beaches across Europe have been given a clean bill of health but many rivers and lakes are still too polluted for swimmers, according to the EU's annual report on the quality of bathing waters.

96% of coastal bathing areas meet the EU’s mandatory standards while only 89% of rivers and lakes make the grade.

While the swimming sites in ‘old’ Europe – the 15 founder member states – are, in general, cleaner than those of newer members, the gap is closing as quality has continued to improve in accession states but, worryingly, has dipped in many parts of the original 15.

Luxembourg and Poland had the worst results, while the UK had a close to perfect coastal score, with 99.6% of its beaches given a clean bill of health.

Although results from across the continent are, on the surface, positive, a number of beaches, river banks and lakes have been scratched from the list by their national authorities because they have been deemed too polluted to be considered bathing sites.

The European Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas said: “It is encouraging to see that the rate of compliance of freshwater bathing areas in 2006 has recovered from the disappointing decrease in 2005.

“I hope that this upward trend will continue and that freshwater bathing areas reach levels achieved by those in coastal areas.

“Despite these encouraging results I am very concerned by the number of bathing sites withdrawn from the list. Removing sites from the list because they are polluted is not a solution. Member States must instead draw up plans for cleaning up these polluted sites.”

The report, together with country-by-country results and those from previous years, can be found on the EU’s website.

Sam Bond

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