Managing our beaches and other bathing waters: who does what?

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  • Local authorities are responsible for managing and monitoring identified Bathing Waters. This includes all water quality sampling, and the issuing of all notices about bathing water quality, including deciding on and issuing any restrictions on swimming.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the environmental regulator, and ensures that local authorities carry out their functions under the Bathing Water Regulations. The EPA maintain the beaches.ie website, which publishes any updates made by local authorities.
  • The Health Service Executive (HSE) provide advice to local authorities on public and environmental health issues related to Bathing Water.
  • The public can make representations to their local authorities to identify new Bathing Waters, and can help by keeping their local beaches clean.

Sampling, analysis and results for bathing water quality 

Sampling and analysis of the bathing water quality at our beaches is managed by our local authorities.

Samples are generally taken just below the surface in waters which are at least 1 metre deep, but this can be influenced by tidal conditions. The safety of the person taking the sample is key, especially if they might need to enter the surf zone where breaking waves present a risk.

As soon as analysis results are reported by the local authorities to the EPA the results are made available on beaches.ie – usually within 48 hours of final analysis.

You can find out the latest water quality at beaches.ie, on beach notice boards, or local authority websites.

When are samples taken? 

Bathing waters at our beaches are sampled each year from the end of May until mid-September.

The official bathing season running from 1st June to 15th September.

Beaches monitored and managed under the Bathing Water Quality Regulation are required to be sampled monthly, as a minimum, during the bathing season.

However many local authorities sample fortnightly and some even weekly. Sampling at other monitored beaches is generally on a monthly basis during the summer months.

What are water samples tested for?

Water samples from our beaches are currently tested for two common faecal bacteria: E.coli and Intestinal Enterococci

These organisms live in the gut of all warm blooded animals including humans, livestock, dogs, birds and are present in very large numbers in faeces.

While they can cause illness on their own they are used as indicators of the possible presence of other more harmful organisms such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Viruses, or parasites such as Cryptosporidium.

In freshwaters there is a better correlation with bather health for E.coli, while in coastal waters Intestinal Enterococci are more closely linked to health risks.

EPA Bathing Water Team

hello@beaches.ie