Bathing water quality continued to improve at swimming spots across the country in 2020, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA’s annual report on water quality at Irish beaches and lakes found 96 per cent, or 142 out of 148, met or exceeded the European Union's minimum standards.
Water quality at 111 out of 148 swimming spots was deemed "excellent" in 2020 — an increase of four on 2019.
Good quality bathing waters are important now more than ever as more people enjoy our natural amenities
Two beaches with "poor" water quality in 2019 also improved, namely Ballyloughane Beach in Co Galway and Brook Beach in Portrane, Dublin.
Two new bathing waters were identified in 2020 and will be classified for the first time following the 2021 season — Carrigaholt and Quilty, both in Co Clare.
With the EPA only using results from the bathing season of June 1st to September 15th when assessing the quality of water, EPA director Dr Eimear Cotter called for water quality to be monitored year-round, amid growing numbers of off-season swimmers.
“The continued improvement in bathing water quality is welcome. It is also positive to see two new beaches being identified in 2020, and to see improvements at two beaches that had poor water quality previously,” Dr Cotter said.
“Good quality bathing waters are important now more than ever as more people enjoy our natural amenities, and particularly swimming.
“With many people now swimming outside the bathing season, the EPA is calling for additional water quality monitoring at beaches where there are large numbers of year-round swimmers, and that this information is made available to the public.”
Despite the overall improvement in bathing water quality in 2020, the water at four spots was still classified as “poor” — down from five in 2019.
The EPA said local authority management plans have been put in place to address the sources of pollution at the four beaches, which are Clifden Beach in Galway; Lough Ennell in Co Westmeath; Cúas Crom in Co Kerry; and Front Strand Beach in Co Dublin.
The EPA said Clifden Beach must now be declassified as a bathing water for 2021, after its water quality was classified as “poor” for five years in a row.
57 pollution incidents were reported to EPA over the course of 2020. The most common cause of pollution incidents was discharges from urban wastewater systems.
The EPA called for Irish Water to make improvements in the operation and management of urban wastewater treatment plants and networks, where they impact on bathing waters.
It warned that pollution incidents, especially heavy rainfall washing wastewater and agricultural pollution into bathing water, can impact water quality on a short-term and localised basis.
The EPA urged swimmers to check the latest bathing water quality information at www.beaches.ie.