Date released: May 11, 2023
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 www.beaches.ie.
Further information: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editor
Throughout this summer, water quality information and details of any incidents affecting bathing waters will be displayed on the www.beaches.ie 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:
Local Authority management plans have been put in place to address the sources of pollution at these beaches.
Swimmers should always check www.beaches.ie 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 www.beaches.ie.
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.