Bathing Water Quality

Irish Beach
Courtesy EPA ©

The Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) was transposed into Irish law in 2008. It aims to enhance the protection of bather’s health and introduced stricter standards for water quality and a new method of assessment. It has established a more pro-active approach to the assessment of possible pollution risks, and to the management of bathing waters. It also places significant priority on promoting increased public involvement, and for improved transfer of information on bathing water quality to the general public.

Bathing waters are now classed into four quality categories; ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’, or ‘Poor’ with a minimum target of ‘Sufficient’ required to be achieved for all bathing waters. The new standards are almost twice as strict as those previously applied and assessment is undertaken on a 4 year data set rather than annually.

The quality of Ireland’s bathing waters remains very high with just over 93% of identified bathing waters (130 of 140) meeting minimum EU standards for ‘Sufficient’ water quality over the four year assessment period 2013-2016. Of these, 120 (85.8%) were classified as either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ water quality.

Six bathing waters failed to achieve ‘Sufficient’ quality of which three were also ‘Poor’ in 2015. The public can still access and use these beaches in such instances but are advised to check current water quality on bathing water notice boards at the beach, or from the relevant local authority.

Water quality at many other locations where bathing occurs less regularly was also monitored. The Bathing Water Regulations (SI 79 of 2008) provide for input from the general public to nominate bathing areas, and each year local authorities are required to seek submissions from the public (EPA, 2018).

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