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Bathing water quality

The European Union (EU) introduces new legislation aimed at improving bathing water quality. This Directive enables water monitoring and management measures to be improved, and information to be made available to the public.

ACT

Directive 2006/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 February 2006 concerning the management of bathing water quality and repealing Directive 76/160/EEC.

SUMMARY

The European Union (EU) is committed to protecting environmental quality and human health. This Directive therefore strengthens the rules guaranteeing bathing water quality *. It supplements Directive 2000/60/EC on water protection and management.

The Directive does not apply to swimming pools or spa pools, or to artificially created confined waters, subject to treatment or used for therapeutic purposes.

Monitoring of bathing water

Each year, the Member States shall identify the bathing waters in their territory and define the length of the bathing season.

They shall establish monitoring at the location most used by bathers or where the risk of pollution is greatest. Monitoring shall take place by means of sampling:

  • four samples, including one before the start of the bathing season;
  • three samples only if the seasons does not exceed eight weeks or if the region is subject to special geographical constraints.

Member States shall communicate the results of their monitoring to the Commission with a description of the water quality management measures. Monitoring may be suspended exceptionally once the Commission has been informed.

Determining bathing water quality

Water quality is assessed on the basis of microbiological data defined according to the parameters described in Annex I. Member States shall then establish a classification of waters of poor, sufficient, good or excellent quality. This classification shall comply with the criteria set out in Annex II.

All bathing waters in the EU must be at least of sufficient quality by the end of the 2015 bathing season. Furthermore, Member States are to take the necessary measures to improve the number of bathing waters of good or excellent quality.

If quality is poor, Member States shall adopt the necessary measures to manage and eliminate pollution, and to protect and inform bathers.

Bathing water profile

The Directive provides for profiles to be established to identify possible pollution, for one or more than one contiguous bathing waters. In particular, they comprise an assessment of:

  • the physical, geographical and hydrological characteristics of the bathing water and of other surface waters in the catchment area;
  • pollution and sources thereof;
  • management measures.

These profiles must be established by 24 March 2011.

Exceptional measures

Member States shall adopt exceptional measures if unexpected situations deteriorate the quality of waters or represent a risk to bathers’ health.

Appropriate monitoring must also be implemented if there is a risk of proliferation of algae. The authorities responsible must therefore:

  • take management measures and provide information immediately if a proliferation of cyanobacteria (or “blue algae”) occurs;
  • assess the health risks if there is a proliferation of macro-algae and/or marine phytoplankton.

Transboundary waters

Member States shall exchange information and take joint action if a river basin * extends over several territories.

Information to the public

National authorities shall enable the public to obtain information and to participate in water quality management. Citizens may therefore make suggestions, remarks or complaints. They may also participate in the establishment, review and updating of lists of water quality.

Moreover, Member States shall ensure that adequate information is disseminated actively and is easily available during the bathing season. This concerns in particular:

  • the classification of water, prohibitions or advice against bathing;
  • a general description of the water in non-technical language;
  • a description of the nature and duration of pollution.

Context

This Directive shall repeal Directive 76/2006/EEC by 31 December 2014.

Key terms
  • Bathing water: any element of surface water where the national authorities of a Member State expect a large number of people to bathe or have not imposed a permanent bathing prohibition, or issued permanent advice against bathing.
  • River basin: area from which all surface run-off flows through a sequence of streams, rivers and, possibly, lakes into the sea at a single river mouth, estuary or delta.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 2006/7/EC

24.3.2006

24.3.2008

OJ L 64 of 4.3.2006

Last updated: 16.03.2011
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