What does the annual bathing water quality classification mean?

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The annual water quality rating (classification) of our main beaches is based on water quality monitoring results covering four years.  The reason for applying an assessment based on four years results is to provide a better overall assessment of water quality at the beach. The annual water quality rating of a beach does not necessarily mean that the current water quality will be the same. During the summer water quality results of individual samples are reported on beaches.ie and are available from beach noticeboards.

Annual water quality ratings of ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, or ‘Sufficient’ (based on four years results) are achieved by meeting specified quality standards or ‘Poor’ where they don’t meet the minimum standard. The quality standards specified in the Bathing Water Quality Regulations require that in order to achieve ‘Excellent’ water quality that the levels of bacteria in the water are regularly low. In ‘Good’ waters the levels of bacteria can, on occasion, be a bit higher and influenced perhaps by rainfall events but on average they would present no appreciable health risk. ‘Sufficient’ quality waters meet the minimum required criteria for bathing but are often more prone to the influence of pollution sources such as streams, drainage, or sewage discharges.

The quality of some of our beaches is very much influenced by the weather. Unlike the Mediterranean, where long sunny days, and generally warm and calm waters are the norm the weather in Ireland can have a marked influence on water quality. Strong winds can churn up the sand making waters turbid while heavy rainfall can increase the likelihood of the runoff of agricultural manures from fields or discharges of sewage from storm outfalls. This was particularly notable in 2012 which was one of the wettest summers for over 40 years and resulted in some of our poorest water quality since monitoring began in 1992.

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