EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Bathing water quality

Bathing water quality



Directive 2006/7/EC concerning the management of bathing water quality


The Bathing Water Directive seeks to ensure that

  • the quality of bathing water is monitored;
  • improved management measures are introduced; and
  • information is made available to the public.


  • The European Union (EU) is committed to protecting environmental quality and human health. This directive therefore strengthens the rules guaranteeing bathing water quality. It supplements Directive 2000/60/EC on water protection and management.
  • The directive does not apply to swimming pools or spa pools, or to artificially created confined waters, subject to treatment or used for therapeutic purposes.

Monitoring of bathing water

  • Each year, EU countries must identify the bathing waters in their territory and define the length of the bathing season.
  • They must establish monitoring at the location most used by bathers or where the risk of pollution is greatest. Monitoring must take place by means of sampling:
    • at least 4 samples, including 1 before the start of the bathing season;
    • 3 samples only if the bathing season does not exceed 8 weeks or if the region is subject to special geographical constraints.
  • EU countries must communicate the results of their monitoring to the European Commission with a description of the water quality management measures. Monitoring may be suspended exceptionally once the Commission has been informed.

Determining bathing water quality

  • Water quality is assessed on the basis of microbiological data defined in accordance with the parameters set in Annex I of the directive. A classification of waters of poor, sufficient, good or excellent quality is established in compliance with the criteria set out in Annex II of the directive.
  • According to the directive, all bathing waters in the EU must have been at least of sufficient quality by the end of the 2015 bathing season. Furthermore, EU countries are to take the necessary measures to improve the number of bathing waters of good or excellent quality.
  • If quality is poor, EU countries must adopt the necessary measures to manage and eliminate pollution, and to protect and inform bathers.

Bathing water profile

  • The directive provides for profiles to be established for each bathing water. These can cover one individual site or more than one contiguous bathing waters. In particular, they comprise an assessment of:
    • the physical, geographical and hydrological characteristics of the bathing water and of other surface waters in the catchment area;
    • pollution and sources thereof;
    • management measures.
  • Bathing water profiles must be reviewed and updated as provided for in Annex III of the directive.

Exceptional measures

  • EU countries must adopt exceptional measures if unexpected situations deteriorate the quality of waters or represent a risk to bathers’ health.
  • Appropriate monitoring must also be implemented if there is a risk of proliferation of algae. The authorities responsible must therefore:
    • take management measures and provide information immediately if a proliferation of cyanobacteria (or ‘blue algae’) occurs;
    • assess the health risks if there is a proliferation of macro-algae and/or marine phytoplankton.

Transboundary waters

  • EU countries must exchange information and take joint action if a river basin extends over several territories.

Information to the public

  • National authorities must enable the public to obtain information and to participate in water quality management. Citizens may therefore make suggestions, remarks or complaints. They may also participate in the establishment, review and updating of lists of water quality.
  • Moreover, EU countries must ensure that adequate information is disseminated actively and is easily available during the bathing season. This concerns in particular:
    • the classification of water, prohibitions or advice against bathing;
    • a general description of the water in non-technical language;
    • a description of the nature and duration of pollution.
  • Directive 2013/64/EU amends Directive 2006/7/EC following the amendment of the status of Mayotte in regard to the EU. France is the sole addressee.
  • Directive 2006/7/EC repealed and replaced Directive 76/160/EEC on 31 December 2014.


It has applied since 24 March 2006. EU countries had to incorporate it into national law by 24 March 2008.


For more information, see:


Directive 2006/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 February 2006 concerning the management of bathing water quality and repealing Directive 76/160/EEC (OJ L 64, 4.3.2006, pp. 37-51)

Successive amendments to Directive 2006/7/EC have been incorporated in to the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Decision 2009/64/EC of 21 January 2009 specifying, pursuant to Directive 2006/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, ISO 17994:2004(E) as the standard on the equivalence of microbiological methods (OJ L 23, 27.1.2009, p. 32)

Commission Implementing Decision 2011/321/EU of 27 May 2011 establishing, pursuant to Directive 2006/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, a symbol for information to the public on bathing water classification and any bathing prohibition or advice against bathing (OJ L 143, 31.5.2011, pp. 38-40)

last update 22.02.2017