Europe: sandy beaches and high quality waters | Photo:

European surfers have reasons to smile, as 94% of bathing sites in the European Union meet minimum standards for water quality.

European Environment Agency's 2012 report on bathing water quality in Europe reveals that there are excellent conditions at 78% of spots and almost 2% more meet the minimum requirements compared to last year's report.

Cyprus and Luxembourg stand out with all listed bathing sites achieving excellent water quality. Eight other countries have excellent quality values above the EU average: Malta (97%), Croatia (95%), Greece (93%), Germany (88%), Portugal (87%), Italy (85%), Finland (83%) and Spain (83%).

"From northern fjords to subtropical beaches, Europe is rich in places to cool down in the summer. Report demonstrates that bathing water quality is generally very good, but there were still some sites with pollution problems", says Jacqueline McGlade, executive director at European Environment Agency.

More than two thirds of the 22.000 European sites are coastal beaches, with rivers and lakes making up the remainder. The European Union has 27 member states, plus Croatia and Switzerland.

In spite of the general improvement, this year's report reveals that almost 2% of bathing sites at beaches, lakes and rivers have poor water quality. The highest proportions of non-compliant bathing sites were in Belgium (12 %), the Netherlands (7 %) and the United Kingdom (6 %).

Some of these beaches had to be closed during the 2012 season. Storm water overflows, caused when sewers cannot cope with heavy rains, are still a problem in some areas.

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