The majority of Ireland’s bathing waters have excellent or good water quality

Date released: May 11, 2023

  • The quality of Ireland’s bathing water is very high overall with 97 per cent (144 of 148) of sites meeting or exceeding the minimum standard. 
  • Of these, 117 bathing sites (79 per cent) had excellent water quality which is an increase from 115 in the previous year. 
  • This is attributed to on-going management of bathing sites by local authorities and investment in urban wastewater infrastructure in recent years.
  • However, localised issues remain and 3 beaches have poor bathing water quality where swimmers are advised not to swim. 
  • Swimmers and other water users’ health would be further protected by local authorities officially designating more bathing sites and providing better information for those who wish to swim year-round. 

12 May 2023: The EPA has today published the Bathing Water Quality in Ireland report for 2022 which shows that water quality at the majority of Ireland’s bathing waters meets or exceeds the appropriate standards. 79% of bathing sites have 'Excellent’ water quality while 97% meet the minimum standard. 

In particular, the EPA highlights two beaches that have improved from Poor to Excellent quality over recent years: Portrane, the Brook Beach in Dublin, and Trá na bhForbacha, Na Forbacha in Galway. This shows that with investment and a strong focus by the local authorities in finding and fixing the issues, water quality will improve. 

Commenting on the report, Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the Office of Evidence and Assessment, said:

‘The on-going improvement in our bathing waters is very welcome and shows that good management of our bathing areas can give a high level of health protection for swimmers and other water users.  Year-round swimming continues to be popular and the EPA looks forward to the outcome of the work, led by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, which is investigating how to protect bathers' health year-round.

 Unfortunately, there were no new bathing waters identified in 2022. The EPA urges local authorities to designate more official bathing sites to protect swimmers’ health, which includes designating the large number of beaches and popular swimming spots that they monitor but which haven’t been formally identified as bathing waters.’  

The number of beaches with poor bathing water quality increased to three, compared with two in 2021. These will have a swimming restriction for the 2023 season. They are Balbriggan (Front Strand Beach), Lady’s Bay, Buncrana and Trá na mBan, An Spidéal with different issues including wastewater discharges, run-off from urban and agricultural lands as well as dog and other animal fouling playing a part.

At some beaches, heavy rainfall can lead to wastewater overflows or run-off from urban and agricultural lands which can lead to a temporary deterioration in bathing water quality. Further information on bathing water and updates on monitoring results during the bathing water season (1st June to 15th September) is available at

Further information: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or

Notes to Editor

Throughout this summer, water quality information and details of any incidents affecting bathing waters will be displayed on the website.
The Bathing Water Quality in Ireland 2022 report, infographic and a map of the quality of Ireland’s Bathing water sites in 2022 are available on the EPA website.

In summary the key findings of the Bathing Water Quality in Ireland report for 2022 were:

  • 97 per cent of bathing waters (144 of 148) met or exceeded the minimum required standard. 
  • 117 (79 per cent) bathing waters were classified as ‘Excellent’, up from 115 in 2021.
  • 3 bathing waters were classified as ‘Poor’, up from two in 2021. These are:
    • Balbriggan – Front Strand Beach, Co. Dublin which is impacted by sewage discharges and misconnections; faeces from dogs, birds and other animals and contaminated surface streams flowing through the town.
    • Lady’s Bay, Buncrana, Co. Donegal which is impacted by Buncrana waste water treatment plant, combined stormwater overflows, and surface run-off, which are made worse by heavy rainfall.
    • Trá na mBan, An Spidéal, Co. Galway which is impacted by the Spiddal sewer network, run-off from agriculture, and discharges from septic tanks.

Local Authority management plans have been put in place to address the sources of pollution at these beaches.

  • Improvements in bathing water quality include Portrane, the Brook Beach in Dublin (Fingal), which has improved from poor quality in 2019 to excellent quality in 2022, and Trá na bhForbacha, Na Forbacha in Galway which has improved from poor quality in 2016 to excellent in 2022.
  • One bathing water, Aillebrack/Silverhill Beach, Co. Galway was identified in 2021 and will be classified after the 2023 season when the required number of samples for the assessment will have been taken. There were no new bathing waters identified in 2022.
  • 34 pollution incidents were reported to the EPA during 2022. Incidents have the potential to cause a pollution risk and, when they occur, swimming restrictions are applied at the beach until sampling shows the water quality is safe.
  • Local authorities also put up 186 ‘Prior Warning’ notices at beaches in 2022, to warn swimmers that short-term pollution (lasting no more than a few days) may occur due to heavy rainfall. These warnings are removed when sampling shows the water quality is safe.

Swimmers should always check and the signage at the beach for the latest water quality information for their local bathing site.

Bathing season: The designated bathing season in Ireland is 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 148 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

Local authorities also monitor more than 70 other beaches that are not formally identified as bathing waters and are not therefore managed under the Bathing Water Regulations. These other monitored beaches are classified by the EPA where information is available and the results are shown in the report and on

Swimmers can engage with their Local Authorities to ask that additional local bathing sites are identified, which will ensure they are managed to protect bathers’ health.

Classification: Bathing areas are classified in one of four categories namely ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ or ‘Poor’.  The minimum 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.

Assessment: Bathing Waters are classified based on a statistical assessment of monitoring data over a four-year period.
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 microbiological pollution being present 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.

Pollution incident: A pollution incident is an incident that has the potential to cause the bathing water quality to deteriorate, for example when there is a stormwater overflow from a waste water treatment plant, or when sampling identifies a pollution risk. A precautionary approach is taken when reporting incidents, meaning that not all incidents result in a deterioration in the bathing water quality. This approach is taken to protect bathers’ health. When a pollution incident occurs, local authorities apply a swimming restriction at the bathing water. The restriction stays in place until water sampling shows that the water quality has returned to normal.

Prior Warning: Prior Warnings (also known as ‘Short-Term Pollution’) are used in a precautionary approach to protect bathers’ health by advising the public of possible short-term pollution events which usually last for only a few days at most. These are used by many local authorities when heavy rainfall is forecast.

The Bathing Water Expert Group chaired by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is undertaking work to examine how the bathers’ health can be better protected outside the bathing season.