This document presents findings and results for 2003 on the quality of Ireland's bathing waters.
Summary: The results for 2003 show that the quality of the bathing water in Ireland is very good with 78% of bathing areas (102 of 131 sites) complying with the National standards. However there has been a downward trend in recent years.
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In Ireland the primary legislation governing the quality of bathing waters is set out in the Quality of Bathing Waters Regulations, 1992 (S.I 155 of 1992) and amendments which transposed the EU Directive 76/160/EC concerning the quality of bathing water. The Regulations set more stringent limits for some parameters than in the EU Directive and all parameters specified are used by the EPA in assessing compliance with the Regulations in contrast to the European Commission which use a sub set of parameters in assessing compliance with the Directive.
Results for 2003 show that the quality of the bathing water in Ireland is very good with 78% of bathing areas (102 of 131 sites) complying with the National standards.
Assessing compliance in line with the European Commission approach shows that Irish bathing water quality is among the best in Europe with 97% of bathing areas (127 of 131 sites) complying with the minimum mandatory standards specified in the Directive.
Eighty five percent of bathing areas (111 of 131 sites) complied with the stricter guide values specified in the Directive. These guide values can be regarded as quality objectives which all bathing sites should endeavour to achieve. Although the overall quality of bathing waters remains very good, the trend in recent years has been downward, particularly with regard to EU guide values. Compliance peaked in 2000 with 91.5% of bathing sites complying with the guide values. This has fallen to 85% in 2003. There has also been a slight fall in compliance with mandatory values falling from a compliance rate of 98.5% in 2000 to 97 % in 2003. The compliance levels quoted in this report are at variance with those recently published by the European Commission due to the late submission of results by one local authority.
The EPA has concerns regarding the level of corrective actions taken by some local authorities in relation to non-compliant bathing water sample results. The Office of Environmental Enforcement within the EPA will be monitoring the progress of corrective actions, particularly at bathing areas which have failed to meet EC mandatory standards.