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Cyprus still cleanest swim spot in EU

April 3, 2014

Cyprus had been ranked highest in the European Union for the water quality of its beaches for the second year in a row, the European Environment Agency said, while extreme flooding washed more pollution into Central European lakes and streams.

Overall the water quality of beaches, lakes, and rivers improved across the continent last year, the agency said in its annual report published on Tuesday.

Some 95 percent of swimming sites in the EU met minimum water quality standards in 2013, up slightly from 94 percent in 2012, according to the agency, which provides scientific data to guide policymakers.

Inland waters suffered because extreme flooding had funnelled sewage into lakes and streams, the report said. About 90 percent of inland sites met minimum quality standards, down slightly from 91 percent in 2012.

But around 97 percent of coastal waters met quality standards, almost steady with the previous year. Southern Mediterranean countries, who rely heavily on pristine seas to attract tourism revenues, had the highest rankings.

All of Cyprus's bathing sites were deemed 'excellent', followed by Malta (99 percent), Croatia (95 percent), and Greece (93 percent).

Meanwhile other nations continue to lag.

In Estonia, some 6 percent of bathing sites were of 'poor' quality, the lowest classification out of four, failing to meet EU standards.

The Netherlands and Belgium followed closely behind, with 4 percent and 5 percent respectively.