Switzerland’s bathing waters continue to improve

Young people take a dip in Lake Walensee in June 2019. © Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

Four out of five Swiss bathing sites met the most stringent “excellent” European Union water quality standard last year. The country has improved its overall position in a comparison survey, but it still remains below the European average. 

This content was published on June 3, 2022 - 17:20

In all, 156 of the 189 bathing sites at Swiss lakes and rivers monitored by the European Environment Agency (EEA)External link last year had the EU’s highest “excellent” quality, up from 144 in 2019. Also, 13 were qualified as “good” or “sufficient”, and four “poor” – three on Lake Geneva (Villeneuve, Dorigny, near Lausanne, and Coulet, near St Prex) and Clendy on Lake Neuchâtel.

In Switzerland, the water quality in lakes and rivers has improved significantly in recent decades. It is possible to swim almost anywhere without risk to your health.

The number of bathing sites across Europe with “excellent” water quality dipped slightly to 84.7%, the agency found, while the number with “poor” quality rose slightly to a total of 1.6% of all sites. 

Austria (97% of all sites), Malta (96.6%), Greece (95.8%), Croatia (95.7%) and Cyprus (93.3%) made up the top five. Switzerland was ranked 17th out of 30 European countries (up from 19th in 2019).

Albania (6.7%), the Netherlands (4.6%), Latvia (3.6%), Sweden (3.5%) and Estonia (3.1%) had the highest share of sites with “poor” water quality last year.

For its 2021 report, the EEA studied a total of 21,859 bathing sites in the 27 European Union countries, as well as in non-members Albania and Switzerland.

The overall quality of bathing water across Europe has greatly improved over the past decades due to systematic monitoring and management: the number of sites with “poor” water quality fell from 2% of the total number of bathing sites assessed in 2013 to 1.5% in 2021.

EU bathing water legislation specifies if bathing water quality can be classified as 'excellent', 'good', 'sufficient' or 'poor', depending on the levels of faecal bacteria detected. All EU Member States, plus Albania and Switzerland, monitor their bathing sites according to the provisions of the EU's Bathing Water Directive.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

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