Interactive Website Shows Cleanest, Dirtiest European Beaches

beaches, Cyprus
Wikimedia Commons

It’s getting to be that time of year again. People are heading to the beaches, especially around the Mediterranean.

Now choosing one has been made easier by a new interactive website by the European Environment Agency. The agency has released its 2012 figures for water quality of 23,511 “bathing waters.” The website has them broken down by country and region. While most are beaches, popular inland swimming areas such as lakes are also included.

Some countries do better than others. Cyprus may be in economic doldrums, but 100% of their beaches have clean water. Slovenia, the subject of an upcoming series here on Gadling, gets equally high praise for its narrow strip of shoreline.

Scientists examined samples of water over several months in 2012, looking for evidence of pollution. It turns out 93 percent of sites had at least the minimum standard set by the European Union. The worst countries were Belgium, with 12 percent substandard swimming areas, and The Netherlands, with 7 percent.

Good Beach Guide names best British beaches

The United Kingdom generally isn’t the first place people think of when they decide to go to the beach. Indeed, the beaches of Spain, France, and Cyprus are filled with lobster-red Brits, so it appears the locals agree, but the Good Beach Guide, published by the Marine Conservation Society, says the UK’s beaches are improving, at least in terms of water quality.

The latest report reveals that 421 of the UK’s 769 beaches have “excellent” water quality, up 33 from last year. In addition, fewer beaches are getting a failing grade. This is a positive trend after heavy rainfall in the past three years made sewage systems overflow and sloughed off fertilizers and agrochemicals from farmland.

The UK can’t sit on their laurels, though, because starting in 2015 the EU is going to enact tougher standards for water purity, and many beaches that are now borderline cases will get failing marks. The BBC has published an interactive map showing what regions do best. Of the two most famous beaches, Blackpool didn’t get the highest “MCS recommended” rating, but Brighton Pier did, which is interesting because the area recently elected the UK’s first Green Party Minister of Parliament.

Now if they could just do something about the weather. . .

Image of Blackpool beach courtesy zergo512 via Wikimedia Commons.