Water quality: the results are in


Clean water is one of the three principle missions of Surfrider Europe’s fight for a protected Ocean and the safety of its users. This summer, a public survey was launched to help us better understand how our community interacts with bathing sites and generate personal testimonies on cases of water contamination. The goal of this work is to strengthen our expertise in this area and urge policy makers to improve bathing water quality regulations.

Can your practice impact your health? 

The survey took a deep dive into different kinds of aquatic practices and the environments where people are spending time in the water. 1770 ocean enthusiasts responded, representing a range of swimmers, surfers, divers, bodyboarders, kitesurfers, paddlers and kayakers.

37% of respondents testified that they had had at least 1 experience that left them sick after their session. The top three most common illnesses caused by poor water quality were ear infection, skin irritations, and Gastroenteritis

To protect the public health and ensure that all can enjoy the Ocean safety, an improved monitoring system is necessary. A temporary decree that closes Ocean access after heavy rains is simply not enough.

A revision for better surveillance 

We want to feel stress-free when we escape to the Ocean, but survey results say that is far from the reality we currently live in. 74% of respondents reported that they were unsatisfied with the quality of water of their local bathing sites and concerned by its appearance. 

In 2021 we are expecting a revision to the EU Bathing Water Quality Directive which is the current framework for water quality criteria. With the results of this survey, it is blatantly clear that stricter regulations and increased monitoring is necessary. Acting as the voice of citizens, Surfrider Europe will propose several revisions to the Directive:

- Increase scope and accessibility of public information.

- Extend monitoring parameters beyond bacteriological to include pollution from waste, chemical (hydrocarbons, cosmetic, medicinal) and environmental (toxic algae) origins.

- Investments in better technology to improve frequency and analysis of tests to anticipate health and environmental risks.

- Develop efficient action plans in case of crisis by improving knowledge on pollution, associated health risks and appropriate means to fight against them.

- Longer surveillance periods that extend beyond the summer season. Under the current Directive monitoring is limited to July andAugust, yet 78% of survey respondents report that they spend time in the water year long.

The results of the water quality survey show that even if the European Environmental Agency say the state of EU waters is declared generally clean, a deeper examination reveals issues beneath the surface. Surfrider Europe will raise these concerns to our European policy makers to fight for a stricter and safer Directive framework to ensure clean, and healthy bathing waters for all Ocean enthusiasts.

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The passion for the oceans, the coastline and the pleasures animate everyone who supports Surfrider and guides the organization's action.


Surfrider is rooted in the value of sharing and participation through inclusion and diversity.


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