Ireland's bathing waters continue to improve
Irish bathing water standards have come up trumps again in the latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, with nearly 100% hitting EU mandatory standards in 2011.
According to the Quality of Bathing Water in Ireland report, 98.5% of Ireland's 135 identified bathing areas met the EU mandatory standards of water quality in 2011, compared with 97% in 2010 after disappointing results in 2008 and 2009.
Water quality was monitored throughout the 2011 bathing season for two new microbiological parameters, E.Coli and Intestinal Enterococci, as part of measures to meet the Bathing Water Quality Regulations 2008 and the new EU Directive on bathing water 2006 by 2015.
However, the number of bathing waters meeting the higher EU standard was down on 2010 figures with just 83% achieving this rating in 2011, compared to 90% the year before.
Only two bathing areas which failed to meet the minimum standards White Strand, Miltown Malbay and Clifden Beach, Galway.
This has been attributed to poor summer weather conditions and 2011 being the first year for a new assessment of bathing water quality and changes in microbiological parameters.
As a result, stricter standards are set to come into force from 2014, which EPA director general Laura Burke said will require "greater vigilance" to ensure Irish bathing waters continue to meet European quality standards.
She said: "The quality of bathing waters in Ireland remains high and shows a sustained improvement in the numbers of bathing areas achieving 'sufficient' status over the last few years."
Improvements in Northern Ireland's bathing waters were also reported last year, with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) figures showing it had achieved the cleanest waters in 15 years.