93% of Irish bathing waters compliant with EU standards

Date released: Jun 03 2010

The quality of Ireland’s bathing waters remains high, with 93% of designated bathing areas meeting the EU mandatory standards.  This is according to findings released today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The findings are available in the EPA’s summary report The Quality of Bathing Water in Ireland – An Overview for the Year 2009 and on the SPLASH website.  In addition, 82 % of bathing areas met the higher guideline standards, a 4% increase compared to the previous bathing season.  The release of the results coincides with the upcoming World Environment Day (5th June 2010) and World Oceans Day (8th June 2010). 

Commenting on the report, Micheál O Cinnéide, Director, EPA Office of Environmental Assessment said:
“These results are timely as we are approach two important dates in our environmental calendar - World Environment Day (5th June 2010) and World Oceans Day (8th June 2010).  The increase of four per cent in the number of bathing waters complying with the EU Guide values is very welcome. The vast majority of designated bathing areas in Ireland are of good quality and are an excellent recreational resource for the general public.

Local authorities have the primary responsibility for ensuring these ratings are maintained and for improving water quality at the remaining areas.  EPA licensing of wastewater discharges should further improve the quality of water at bathing sites that are currently being impacted by such discharges”.
Report Findings
A total of 131 designated bathing areas, comprising 122 seawater and 9 freshwater, were monitored throughout the 2009 bathing season. The results of samples analysed were assessed for compliance with two sets of EU standards:

  • the minimum EU mandatory values and
  • the stricter EU guide values.

The bathing areas are classified as follows:

  • Compliant with guide and mandatory values achieves good water quality status.
  • Compliant with mandatory values only achieves sufficient water quality status.
  • Non compliant with mandatory values results in poor water quality status.

The key findings from this assessment show:

  • 122 of the 131 designated bathing areas (93%) complied with the mandatory standards and thus achieved at least sufficient water quality status. 
  • 108 of the 131 (82%) bathing areas complied with the much stricter EU guideline standards and thus achieved good water status. 
  • 9 of the 131 bathing areas (7%) failed to comply with the minimum mandatory standards and were thus classified as poor quality status. These bathing areas were: Balbriggan Front Strand, Skerries South Beach, Sutton Burrow Beach (Dublin Fingal); Clifden Beach (Galway); Dunmore Strand Dunmore East (Waterford); Duncannon (Wexford); Killalla Ross Beach (Mayo); Youghal Main Beach (Cork) and Lilliput, Lough Ennel (Westmeath).
  • 7 local authorities achieved good water status at all their bathing areas. These were: Donegal, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, Kerry, Louth and Meath County Councils, and Dublin and Galway City Councils

Dr. Micheál Lehane, Programme Manager, EPA Office of Environmental Assessment said:
“Local authorities need to take action to ensure that bathing waters failing to comply with the EU minimum standards are improved. Adequate measures - including the provision of appropriate waste water treatment facilities - are required. It is also important that local authorities effectively inform the general public when pollution events occur, or are predicted. New Regulations, to take effect in 2011, place particular emphasis on this aspect and will require compliance with stricter water quality standards.”

The summary report The Quality of Bathing Water in Ireland – An Overview for the Year 2009, along with a map of the quality of Ireland’s bathing water, are now available on the EPA website.
In addition, all information relating to the 2009 bathing season is now available on the EPA’s bathing water quality website SPLASH.

View compliance and water quality status of all designated bathing areas.

Throughout this summer, up-to-date bathing water quality information, as provided by the local authorities, will be displayed on SPLASH. Information about bathing safety, Blue Flag status and weather will also be available on the web site.


Further information: Niamh Leahy, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)

Note to Editors:
EU Mandatory Standards: These are the minimum standards that the water quality at bathing areas must achieve over the bathing season.
EU Guide values: These are stricter guideline standards that bathing areas should endeavour to achieve over the bathing season.

The parameter Faecal streptococci is not one of the five parameters used for EU compliance assessment, however, compliance with the guide value for this parameter is considered for Blue Flag Awards.