Cyprus ranked at the top of Europe in terms of the quality of its bathing waters in 2023, according to an assessment published on Tuesday by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in partnership with the European Commission.

A total of 97.6 per cent of the bathing waters surveyed on the island last year got an ‘excellent’ score.

A total of 123 bathing waters were surveyed, all of them coastal (beaches). In total, 1,150 samples were taken from the 123 sites.

According to the EEA, bathing waters are quality-classed according to the two microbiological parameters (Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci) defined in the Bathing Water Directive.

“The exceptional results regarding the quality of swimming waters in Cyprus are significant not only for the swimmers’ health and the environment but also for the island’s economy, which is closely linked to the quality of our seas and tourist activity,” Agriculture Minister Maria Panayiotou said in a statement later in the day.

“This success and top ranking which honours Cyprus once again is the result of the impeccable cooperation of the environmental department, which has the overall responsibility for implementing the Bathing Water Directive, with the public health services, the state laboratory, as well as with the local authorities,” the statement continued.

The vast majority of bathing water sites in Europe met the EU’s most stringent ‘excellent’ bathing quality standards in 2023. This represents 85 per cent of Europe’s popular bathing waters. As many as 96 per cent of all officially identified bathing waters in the EU met the minimum quality standards, with only 1.5 per cent rated as ‘poor’.

The assessment highlights where swimmers can find safe bathing sites in Europe this summer. It focuses specifically on safety for bathing, through monitoring of bacteria which can cause serious illness in people, rather than general water quality.

Other than Cyprus, the highest share of excellent bathing waters is found in Greece, Croatia and Austria. In Belgium, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Malta, Austria and Romania, all officially identified bathing waters met at least the minimum quality standard in 2023.

The assessment is based on the monitoring of 22,081 bathing sites across Europe that were reported to the EEA for the 2023 season. This includes sites in all EU member states, plus Albania and Switzerland.

“Although most of Europe’s bathing waters are in excellent condition, pollution of surface and groundwater remains significant and may be exacerbated by the changing climate. Improving water resilience for people and for the environment in coming years will be key,” the EEA said.