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Brussels, 12 January 2001

Commission takes first step to revise the Bathing Water Directive

The European Commission has launched a broad consultation exercise on the revision of the 25 year old Bathing Water Directive. The adoption of a Communication to the European Parliament and the Council entitled "Developing a New Bathing Water Policy" is the first step towards revision of the Directive. The Communication provides an outline of the expected contents and implications of a revised Directive. The revision of the Bathing Water Directive should maintain, even toughen the rigorous standards of the existing Directive. The new Directive will set out tough and ambitious targets to be met within specific timeframes.

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "There is great public interest in the quality of bathing water and clear recognition that only a European system can guarantee water quality. In modernising this Directive, one of my objectives is to improve our ability to inform the public about bathing water quality as well as to update the rigorous standards which have helped to ensure an overall improvement in the quality of bathing water since 1976".

Although the current Bathing Water Directive (Directive 76/160/EEC) is now 25 years old, its continued importance is evident particularly each summer it protects the public from accidental and chronic pollution discharged in or near bathing areas across Europe. Furthermore, the overall quality of bathing waters has improved considerably since the Directive came into force. Changes in science and technology, however, oblige the Commission to revise and update its legislation at regular intervals. It is now time for the Bathing Water Directive to be revised. Its revision will be a further milestone in European environmental water legislation.

The four stage process (i.e. Communication, Consultation, Conference, Proposal) adopted for developing a new Bathing Water Directive is similar to the one that was used for the preparation of the Water Framework Directive. It is based on transparency, stakeholder participation and commitment and shared responsibility. The purpose of the Commission Communication is to launch an open consultation exercise. The objective of this consultation will be to learn how best to improve our bathing water legislation and its implementation. This document provides an outline of the expected contents and implications of a revised Directive, however the various elements have not yet been set out in concrete proposals for amendment of the existing Directive.

The revision of the Bathing Water Directive will maintain, and even upgrade, the rigour of the existing Directive. The revised Directive will still contain specific targets which will be tough and ambitious and which will have to be met within specific timeframes.

It is also the Commission's intention to rationalise and optimise the implementation of bathing water quality management through various steps, including reducing the number of parameters to be monitored, and through introducing new tools and more robust parameters. A revised Directive will above all provide better information to the public.

The specific issues mentioned in the document are: the identification of bathing areas, compliance mechanisms, surveys and monitoring, trends in water quality, standard setting and methods of analysis, the obligation to take action, the prediction of water quality, information requirements, public participation and reporting and how to keep the Bathing Water Directive up-to-date.

The Commission seeks constructive inputs on the approaches presented in the Communication, and invites all interested and involved parties to participate in the consultation and to react to this document.

All language versions of the Communication can be found on the DG ENV Water web-site on The Communication can also be obtained by writing or faxing to:

European Commission  

Directorate-General Environment

Unit ENV.D.1 Water protection, soil conservation and agriculture

Bert Van Maele, Desk officer for the Bathing Water Directive

Avenue Beaulieu 9, office 3/133

B-1160 Brussels

Fax: +32/2/296 88 25

Comments to the Communication should be sent to the address above. Submissions by email are particularly encouraged by using the email mailbox:

The consultation exercise will culminate in a Bathing Water Conference hosted by the Commission and the Swedish Presidency of the Council, which will be held during Green Week 24-28 April 2001.

Based on the finding of this consultation exercise, the Commission intends to come forward with a Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive on Bathing Water in June/July 2001.

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