Quality of Irish bathing areas remains high

Date released: May 26 2009

The quality of Ireland’s bathing waters remains high, with 93 per cent of designated bathing areas meeting the EU mandatory standards, and classed as being of  ‘sufficient’ water quality status.  This is according to findings released today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its report The Quality of Bathing Water in Ireland – A Report for the Year 2008.  The EPA noted however, that this represented a four per cent decrease in the number of bathing areas reaching ‘sufficient’ water quality status compared to results for the preceding year.

Commenting on the report, Dr Micheál Lehane, Programme Manager, EPA said:

“The drop of four per cent in the numbers of bathing areas complying with the minimum EU standards is disappointing.  Poor weather conditions experienced during the 2008 summer would have been a contributory factor.  Nevertheless, there are underlying issues at the majority of these particular sites, and problems may recur unless all necessary actions are implemented. The vast majority of designated bathing beaches in Ireland are of good quality and continue to make for an excellent natural and recreational resource for all who wish to use them”.

Report Findings
A total of 131 designated bathing areas, comprising 122 seawater and 9 freshwater, were monitored throughout the 2008 bathing season. The results of samples analysed were assessed for compliance with two sets of EU standards:

  • the minimum EU mandatory values and
  • the stricter EU guide values.

The bathing areas are classified as follows:

  • Compliant with guide and mandatory values achieves good water quality status.
  • Compliant with mandatory values only achieves sufficient water quality status.
  • Non compliant with mandatory values results in poor water quality status.

The key findings from this assessment show:

  • 122 of the 131 designated bathing areas (93 per cent) complied with the mandatory standards and thus achieved sufficient water quality status. 
  • 102 of the 131 (78 per cent) bathing areas complied with the much stricter EU guideline standards and thus achieved good water status. 
  • 9 of the 131 bathing areas (7 per cent) failed to comply with the minimum mandatory standards and were thus classified as poor quality status. These bathing areas were: Balbriggan, Loughshinny, Malahide, Portrane (Dublin Fingal); Clifden (Galway); Ardmore (Waterford); Ballyallia Lake (Clare); Keeldra Lough (Leitrim) and Lilliput, Lough Ennel (Westmeath).

Dr. Lehane continued:

“Adequate measures, including the provision of appropriate waste water treatment facilities must be expedited insofar as possible for a number of bathing areas that are at risk of not meeting minimum bathing water standards.  Local authorities should continue to ensure that all surface water management infrastructure is adequately maintained to deal with heavy rainfall during the summer months. They should also ensure, where applicable, adherence to good agricultural practices around bathing areas in order to minimise risk of failures due to run-off during heavy rainfall events”.

The findings of the report The Quality of Bathing Water in Ireland – A Report for the Year 2008, along with a map of the quality of Ireland’s bathing water, are now available on the EPA website.


Further information: Niamh Leahy, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)

Note to Editors:
EU Mandatory Standards: These are the minimum standards that the water quality at bathing areas must achieve over the bathing season.
EU Guide values: These are stricter guideline standards that bathing areas should endeavour to achieve over the bathing season.

View compliance and water quality status of all designated bathing areas.