The UK ranks worst in Europe for bathing water quality


The UK ranked last on an index of the cleanest swimming waters in Europe in 2020 – largely as the pandemic led to a decrease in the number of samples collected.

Of the more than 600 coastal and inland bathing areas in the country, only 110 (17 percent) were rated as excellent, 32 (5 percent) as good and 29 (4.5 percent) as sufficient. Twelve (1.9 percent) had poor bathing water quality.

However, the data was skewed as the vast majority of the sites – 457 or 71.4 percent – were unclassified, meaning insufficient numbers of samples were collected due to Covid restrictions.

The figures compiled by Europe’s environmental monitoring agency place Great Britain in last place among the countries with “excellent” bathing water quality.

Many of the UK sites tested were on the Welsh and Northern Irish coasts, most of which were rated excellent.

These included Caerfai Bay, Amroth, and Morfa Bychan Beach. Elsewhere, Joss Bay in Broadstairs and Herne Bay also received the highest scores.

Beaches that received poor ratings for water quality included Hunstanton Beach in Norfolk, Scarborough’s South Bay Beach, and Combe Martin in Devon.

In the UK, swimming in the sea, rivers and lakes has become increasingly popular with multiple locks and an increasing interest in spending time outdoors.

The ranking assessed water quality in all 27 EU Member States as well as in the United Kingdom, Albania and Switzerland in 2020 and gives an indication of the areas where bathing quality is expected to be good this year.

Cyprus in first place (with 100 percent of its bathing waters rated as excellent) beat Austria, Greece and Malta – which came in second (97.7 percent), three (97.1 percent) and four (96.6 percent) .

Popular vacation destinations such as Spain, Italy and Portugal were among the highest on the continent, with excellent water quality noted in 88.5 percent, 88.6 percent and 89.2 percent of the cases, respectively.

Share of bathing waters of excellent quality in Europe in 2020

(European Environment Agency)

Virginijus Sinkevicius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, said: “Bathing water quality in Europe remains high and it is good news for Europeans who will be visiting beaches and bathing places this summer.”

Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, said: “The quality of Europe’s bathing water remains high after four decades of measures to prevent and reduce pollution. EU law has not only contributed to increasing the overall quality, but has also helped to identify areas in which there is specific need for action. “

In 2020, 296, or 1.3 percent, of bathing water in Europe was of poor quality.

Although the proportion of locations with poor quality has decreased slightly since 2013, according to the Watchdog, problems persist both with the assessment of the sources of pollution and with the implementation of measures to solve the problem.

The quality of the bathing water is classified according to the detected faecal bacteria.

In places where water is classified as poor, the federal states are asked to ban bathing or at least advise against it.

You can find the full list of tested bathing spots here.



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