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 proactive 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 95% of all national bathing waters meeting minimum criteria for bathing water quality in 2019 (EPA, 2020). 107 of 147 bathing waters were classified as Excellent with a further 24 areas classified as good and 9 classified as sufficient.

Five bathing waters were classified as Poor in 2019. Two of these are in the Dublin area (Merrion Strand and Portrane (the Brook) Beach). A further two are located in Galway (Clifden and Ballyloughane Beaches), and one is located in Co. Westmeath (Lilliput, Lough Ennell) (EPA, 2020).

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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