2023 Bathing Water Quality

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16 May 2024: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published the Bathing Water Quality in Ireland report for 2023 which shows that water quality at the majority of Ireland’s bathing waters was of a high standard. 77 per cent of bathing sites have ‘Excellent’ water quality while 97 per cent meet the minimum standard.

  • Bathing water quality in 2023 was high overall, with 97 per cent (143 of 148) of sites meeting or exceeding the minimum standard, the same number as in 2022.
  • 114 bathing sites (77 per cent) had excellent water quality, down from 117 in 2022.
  • The number of beaches with poor bathing water quality increased to five, compared with three in 2022.  Discharges from wastewater overflows and misconnections are the main issue at these beaches. 
  • The wet weather in July and August 2023 put pressure on our beaches resulting in more beach closures to protect public health.
  • The rainfall events in 2023 highlighted the need to build climate resilience into the effective management of bathing waters

Bathing water quality can be impacted by heavy rainfall. This results in waste water overflows and in runoff from agricultural lands and urban areas which can cause short-term deterioration in water quality. In 2023 urban waste water related incidents were the most frequently reported cause of beach closures. Run-off from agriculture, fouling from dogs left on the beach, wastewater from properties going to surface water drains rather than sewer (known as misconnections) and algal blooms also impacted on bathing waters.

Record rainfall levels in July and storms in August led to more beach closures in 2023 than in previous years. The rainfall events in 2023 highlighted the need to build climate resilience into the effective management of bathing waters.

“While our bathing water quality is generally very good overall, there is a need to build climate resilience into the management of bathing waters to reduce the risk of pollution following heavy rainfall.  This needs action by all sectors including Uisce Éireann, local authorities, and agriculture to reduce overflows from urban waste water systems, and runoff from urban areas and agricultural land.  While beach closures play an important role in protecting bathers’ health, local authorities need to improve their understanding of the pressures which can impact beaches in the context of changing rainfall patterns.” 

Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA, Office of Evidence and Assessment

The number of beaches classified as poor increased from three to five in 2023.  These are Balbriggan Front Strand Beach, Lady’s Bay (Buncrana), Trá na mBan (An Spidéal), which were also poor in 2022, and Loughshinny and Sandymount beaches in Dublin. The relevant local authorities and Uisce Éireann have plans in place to improve water quality at these beaches. These must be fully implemented to make these beaches safe for swimming.   

No new bathing water sites were identified in 2023, although monitoring continues at almost 80 beaches not formally identified.  The EPA encourages swimmers to engage with local authorities to officially identify and manage additional bathing sites to protect bathers’ health.

Further information on bathing water quality and updates on monitoring results during the bathing water season (1st June to 15th September) is available at www.beaches.ie

Swimmers should always check www.beaches.ie and the signage at the beach for the latest water quality information for their local bathing site.

Learn more:

Press coverage:

RTE Morning Ireland: Mary Gurrie, EPA Programme Manager, discusses the EPA’s latest report looking at bathing water quality at beaches across the country

RTE website: Majority of bathing water locations of high quality – EPA

Irish Times: Heavy summer rainfall putting pressure on Irish beaches and increasing temporary closures, EPA warns

Newstalk Breakfast: How rain is putting pressure on our beaches

Irish Examiner: EPA – Ireland must build climate resilience into the way it manages bathing waters

Irish Independent: Revealed – The five beaches out of use to swimmers this summer due to pollution fears

The EPA Bathing Water Team

About the author: The EPA are the environmental regulator. The EPA bathing water team make sure that local authorities carry out their functions under the Bathing Water Regulations and publish the annual bathing water quality report. The latest information about bathing water quality is always available on beaches.ie and you can follow us on Twitter for incident alerts - @EPABeaches