My big fat clean beach
Athens News, 12 June 2009

Greece has the third cleanest beaches in Europe, behind only Cyprus and Lithuania, says an EU- wide report on water quality.

According to the findings of the survey, published on June 11, 97.7 percent of beaches in Greece meet EU standards for water cleanliness. A total of 2,094 beaches were inspected between June and November 2008.

Only two beaches did not pass the EU's test.

"High-quality swimming water is essential for the wellbeing of European citizens and the environment - and this goes for all other bodies of water, too," Stavros Dimas, European commissioner for the environment, told reporters during the release of the report in Brussels. "I am pleased to see that the overall quality of water in swimming areas is improving throughout the union."

The results are based on sampling carried out by the national authorities in all EU member states and checked against a set of physical, chemical and microbiological parameters, These include testing for the presence of coliform bacteria associated with faeces and other sources, the colour of the water, residues of petrol-based mineral oils, foam from detergents and toxic acids such as phenol.

More than 21,000 swimming sites were tested in the 27 member states. The largest number of coastal waters for swimming are found in Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Denmark. Germany and France have the most inland waters.

Overall in 2008, 96.3 percent of Europe’s coastal swimming waters and 92 percent of inland waters met the minimum water quality standards set by the European Bathing Water Directive. This is an improvement on 2007. A new EU-wide water directive took effect in 2UI]6. It places greater emphasis on providing information to the public on the quality of swimming areas.

Member states have until 2015 to fully implement the new directive. Only 12 member states - Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden - are already enforcing the directive.

According to Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Environment Agency, the report is a tool to enable citizens and tourists to check the quality of beach water in their local community or holiday destination.

"But also to allow them to get more actively involved in the protection of their environment," she added.

Water Information System for Europe