Indicator: Bathing water quality

A graph shows good and sufficient bathing water quality levels for coastal and inland waters (1992 to 2021). There was a particularly strong improvement in quality in the 1990s. The 2015 target has almost been met.Click to enlarge
Percentage of German bathing waters that comply with the provisions of the Bathing Water Directive..
Source: European Commission Figure as PDF

Table of Contents

 

At a glance

  • All bathing waters in the EU were supposed to be of at least sufficient quality by 2015.
  • 97.7 % of inland bathing waters had excellent water quality in 2021. With that the target has been missed only slightly.
  • Taking into account only those bathing waters that were explicitly assessed, 99.4 % of the bathing waters met the requirements in 2020.
  • About 92 % of inland waters and almost 85 % of coastal bathing waters had excellent water quality in 2021.
 

Environmental importance

Swimming in natural waters may be associated with health risks. Like all waters, bathing waters are used for a wide range of purposes and are therefore exposed to a number of pollution risks.

The indicator is based on the hygienic quality of the bathing water by measuring the level of faecal bacteria in the water. Bathing waters with high concentrations of these bacteria are at risk of also having pathogens present. These can cause diseases involving fever, sickness and diarrhoea. This risk is present after heavy rain, for instance, as a result of combined waste water overflow from sewage treatment plants or runoff from agricultural land. Another problem arises as a result of high nutrient discharges (especially phosphates). These can lead to a mass development of cyanobacteria. If these bacteria occur in large numbers, measures have to be taken. The presence of cyanobacteria is, however, not included in the quality assessment.

 

Assessing the development

Germany’s bathing waters are of good quality. In 2021, 97.7 % of all bathing water sites met the EU’s minimum quality standards (inland waters 97.8 %, coastal waters 97.5 %). Taking into account the fact that not all bathing water sites can be assessed (e.g. because they are new), 99.4 % of the assessed bathing water sites met the criteria. About 92 % of inland bathing sites and almost 85 % of coastal bathing sites had excellent bathing water quality. Between 1992 and 2001, the proportion of bathing waters complying with the guideline and minimum values rose steadily. Since then, the quality of Germany’s bathing waters has remained at a high level with slight fluctuations. The European Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) sets out the values that bathing water has to comply with for the various levels of hygiene quality. All bathing water sites were supposed to at least meet the requirements of the sufficient quality level by 2015. The target was missed by a narrow margin in 2021, but Germany is still one of the leading countries in Europe concerning bathing waters quality.

 

Methodology

Water samples have to be taken in all European bathing waters before and during the bathing season according to a strict monitoring calendar. The samples are analysed for the faecal bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and for the clade group intestinal enterococci. Specified concentrations have to be met for the different quality levels, which are set out in Annex I of the Bathing Water Directive. A detailed description of the methodology can be found in the Bathing Water Directive and in the report on the state of bathing water quality published by the European Environment Agency (EEA 2022).

More detailed information: 'Qualität von Badegewässern' (in German only).