Climate concerns for bathing water quality

© L M Gorthand / iStock

The latest progress report on Europe’s bathing waters from the European Environment Agency highlighted issues of future concern alongside general progress on bathing water quality.

The latest annual update, ‘Bathing water management in Europe: Successes and challenges’, draws attention to potential impacts around climate change. More frequent and stronger storms, periods of increased flow in rivers, water scarcity, and rising sea levels all have potential consequences for bathing waters.

The EEA used the latest update as an opportunity to reflect on the contribution of the EU’s Bathing Water Directive. According to the EEA, the number of sites monitored increased from around 7500 in 1990 to more than 22,000 in 2019, with the share of sites with sufficient water quality increasing from 74% to more than 95% from 1991 to 2019, and the share of sites with excellent water quality from 53% to 85%.

The report highlights five main groups of issues affecting bathing water quality – microbiological pollution, extreme events, eutrophication, cyanobacterial blooms, and the challenges around the growing interest in wild swimming.

“There will be climatic changes in the future that will substantially affect bathing and bathing water management,” the report states, adding: “A higher demand for bathing will pressurise national authorities to expand their bathing water networks, identify and monitor new bathing waters and ensure that supporting infrastructure is in place.”