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The report says repeated pleas for more attention to Europe’s 4,376 fresh water bathing areas have produced “encouraging” results for the third year in a row. In 1996, one out of three fresh water zones was insufficiently monitored or did not meet the minimum quality requirements. In contrast, just above 90% of the fresh water bathing areas respected the minimum requirements of the Directive during the 1999 bathing season.

The percentage of insufficiently sampled fresh water beaches decreased further to 3.2%. The Commission says it hopes that the next season will finally show that all freshwater bathing areas will be sufficiently sampled.

The picture is less encouraging for Europe’s 11,435 seaside beaches and coastal bathing areas: while more than 95% respect the minimum quality requirements, this is only a marginal improvement compared with results in the previous report.

Now that the majority of coastal bathing waters respect the minimum requirements of the Directive, the European Commission says it hopes that Member States will aim at a higher compliance with the stricter guide values.

The report says that further improvement in coastal bathing water quality cannot be achieved through local initiatives only. Action, the report says, must be taken on the basis of a more integrated approach to water management.

“A legal act is only as good as its implementation,” said the European Commissioner for Environment, Margot Wallström, presenting the report. “EU legislation on Bathing Water has produced results: bathing water quality has progressed considerably over the years. But there is still scope for improvement. This year’s report also shows that Member States cannot rest on their laurels. Constant vigilance and effort are necessary to preserve good water quality results from one year to the next. Member States should not only aim for compliance with the minimum requirements of the Bathing Water Directive. They should be more ambitious and put more effort achieving the higher, stricter quality requirements.”

Results for fresh water bathing areas:

  • the UK has for the second time presented results for freshwater bathing zones, now for 11 zones. 10 of them respect the minimum requirements
  • Belgium could not confirm the relatively good results of 1998: compliance with the minimum requirements fell with over 4% to 92.3%
  • Denmark shows a marginal deterioration and falls back to 89.5% compliance with the minimum requirements
  • Germany seems to have recovered from the particularly bad summer of 1998 and has reached 92.4% compliance
  • the four inland bathing zones of Greece all comply with the minimum requirements, but only one respects the stricter requirements
  • Spain again shows only a marginal improvement, and has banned bathing during the 1999 bathing season in almost 10% of its freshwater zones
  • France has not yet communicated any results to the Commission due to an industrial action by the staff responsible for forwarding the information to the central government. Nevertheless, the report claims measures to monitor bathing water quality and to protect bather’s health were taken throughout the 1999 bathing season
  • Ireland remains at 100% compliance for its nine inland bathing areas
  • this is the first time that all inland bathing areas in Italy have been sufficiently monitored. There was also an appreciable improvement in overall compliance from 85.8% in 1998 to 94.7% in 1999
  • the situation in Luxembourg hasn’t changed for the last six years and remains at 85% compliance
  • in contrast to the situation in its coastal waters, the Netherlands is having difficulties monitoring its freshwater zones sufficiently. Almost 8% of its freshwater bathing areas remain non-compliant
  • almost 96% of Austria’s bathing zones respect the minimum requirements
  • Portugal has improved from below 20% compliance in 1998 to 78.4% compliance in 1999
  • Finland and Sweden are struggling to implement the Directive: a relatively high number of beaches are insufficiently sampled, with compliance standing at just over 85% for Finland and close to 81% for Sweden

Results for coastal bathing areas

  • the UK has for the first time passed the important point of 90% compliance
  • Belgium again reached 100% compliance with the minimum requirements in 1999 after a considerable drop in compliance in 1998 to almost 93%
  • Denmark’s rate of compliance has dropped for the third consecutive year and stands at just under 93% compliance with the minimum requirements
  • the coastal bathing areas of Germany show a considerable improvement both in terms of compliance with the minimum requirements (93.5% in 1999 compared to 90.9% in 1998) and in meeting the stricter requirements (from 75.1% in 1998 to 82.6% in 1999)
  • France has not yet communicated any results to the Commission due to an industrial action by the staff responsible for forwarding the information to the central government. Nevertheless, the report says, measures to monitor bathing water quality and to protect bather’s health were taken throughout the 1999 bathing season
  • results for the Netherlands remain at the same level as the last report
  • Greece, Spain, Ireland and Italy all muster marginally better results than for the 1998 bathing season
  • Portugal has for the first time passed the important point of 90% compliance, reaching 93.9% compliance
  • Finland and Sweden are struggling with the correct practical implementation of the Directive. A relatively high number of beaches remain insufficiently sampled, with compliance just over 90% for Finland and below 85% for Sweden

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