EPA welcomes improvements in bathing waters though more action is required at a small number of beaches

Date released: May 30, 2019

The 2018 EPA Bathing Water report, published today, sets out bathing water quality during the long hot summer of 2018.  Overall, 94 per cent of the 145 identified bathing waters met the minimum EU standards last year, with over 100 beaches classified as Excellent.  Three new bathing waters, Dooey and Magheraroarty in Donegal and Seafield Quilty in Clare, were classified for the first time in 2018.  All three were classified as Excellent. 

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Key findings of the report:

  • 145 bathing waters were identified in 2018, an increase of three since 2017.
  • 94 per cent of identified bathing waters (137 of 145) met at least the minimum EU standards.
  • 103 of 145 bathing waters were classified as Excellent.  A further 22 were classified as Good and 12 were classified as Sufficient, meeting the mandatory requirement. 
  • Five bathing waters were classified as Poor, down from seven in 2017. Three of these are in the Dublin area (Sandymount Strand, Merrion Strand and Portrane (the Brook) Beach).  The other two are Lilliput (Lough Ennell) in Co. Westmeath and Clifden, Co. Galway.
  • Sandymount Strand has been classified as Poor for the past two years with Portrane (the Brook) Beach and Clifden, receiving a Poor classification for the past three years.  This is the fourth year that Merrion Strand was classified as Poor.  Lilliput (Lough Ennell), which had a Good classification in 2017, deteriorated to Poor in 2018.
  • Improvements were made in three bathing waters previously classified as Poor: Loughshinny and Rush (South Beach) in Fingal and Ballyloughane near Galway City.
  • Three Bathing waters at Dooey and Magheraroarty in Donegal and at Seafield Quilty in Clare, were classified for the first time in 2018 and all three received an Excellent classification.  
  • Three bathing waters at Forty Foot Bathing Place, Sandycove Beach and White Rock Beach were newly identified in 2018 and will be classified following the 2019 bathing season.

Andy Fanning, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment said:

“It is great to see local authorities identifying new bathing waters with excellent water quality.  At the other end of the scale, we have five bathing waters that have been classified as Poor.  More intensive action needs to be taken by local authorities to address the issues and protect the health of bathers.” 

Jenny Deakin, EPA Senior Scientific Officer, said:

“Ireland has many beautiful beaches and some inland bathing waters with excellent water quality.  The report covers the 145 EU identified bathing waters.  It also provides information on 72 other waters that are not covered by the legislation that are monitored by the local authorities because bathing or recreational activities take place there.

“During the summer, current water quality information and details of any incidents affecting bathing waters will be displayed on the beaches.ie website.  If you are heading to the beach with your family or friends, check www.beaches.ie  or our Twitter feed @EPABeaches, before heading out.  Most importantly, when you get to the beach always check the local notice board to be sure the water quality is good before you dip your toe.”

The report Bathing Waters in Ireland 2018, bathing water 2018 infographic and map of the quality of Ireland’s Bathing water sites are available on the EPA website.

Notes to Editor

Bathing season: The bathing season in Ireland, is designated as being from 1st June to 15th September.

Identified Bathing Waters: This is the legal term used for those beaches and lakes managed under the Bathing Water Regulations.  Local authorities are responsible for identifying Bathing Waters within their area annually. The 145 identified bathing waters are either coastal or inland waters widely used by the public for bathing and are monitored, managed and assessed under the requirements of the 2008 Bathing Water Quality Regulations.

Assessment: Bathing Water compliance requires assessments to be undertaken using a statistical methodology using data covering a four-year period.

Classification: Bathing areas are currently classified in one of four categories namely ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ or ‘Poor’.  The mandatory requirement is for ‘Sufficient’ quality.  Any waters graded as ‘Poor’ require that management measures be put in place to identify and eliminate the sources of pollution.

Bathing at sites classified as having ‘Poor’ water quality: The fact that any bathing water has been classified as ‘Poor’ means that there is a risk of periodic microbiological pollution which could potentially cause illness such as skin rashes or gastric upset.  Under the Bathing Water Regulations, local authorities are required to put in place notifications for the entire bathing season advising the public against bathing.  This could include a bathing prohibition if a serious pollution incident occurs.