Clean Water for Swimming in Europe: Which Countries Have the Best Quality?

By Ivan PetrenkoJun 5, 2024 08:30 AMNews
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A tourist enjoys kayaking on the clear waters of a European lake
Mountain scenery and crystal-clear water make for the perfect nature getaway. Source: pixabay

Europe has made significant progress in ensuring the cleanliness of its bathing waters, positively impacting the health and leisure of its residents and tourists. When planning a vacation by the sea or lake, it’s important to know about the quality of the water for swimming to avoid potential health problems. The European Environment Agency has published a report on the state of bathing water in EU countries.

Most bathing spots in the EU are safe for swimming. However, water quality can vary depending on the region and type of water body. Generally, water in seas and oceans is cleaner than in rivers and lakes.

In 2023, 85% of the 22,081 bathing spots in Europe were rated as excellent. Leading countries like Cyprus, Austria, Croatia, and Greece have over 95% of their bathing spots with excellent water quality. Meanwhile, countries like Albania, Belgium, Estonia, Hungary, and Poland have less than 70% of their bathing spots with high water quality. Overall, 96% of all EU bathing spots meet the minimum water quality standards.

The EU follows the Bathing Water Directive, which regulates the quality of bathing water. Water is regularly tested for bacteria such as E. coli and enterococci, which can indicate sewage or manure pollution. Depending on the bacteria levels, water quality is classified as "excellent," "good," "sufficient," or "poor."

In 2015, Paris launched a plan to prepare the Seine for swimming by the 2024 Olympics. By 2025, after the games, Parisians will be able to use swimming areas along the Seine. Structural works have been completed, including upgrading wastewater treatment plants and building a rainwater storage reservoir.

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