The quality of Ireland’s bathing water continued to improve in 2021, with 97% (144) of the 148 sites studied meeting or exceeding the minimum standard, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Bathing Water in Ireland report for 2021.

Of these 144 sites, the EPA says that 78% (115) had “excellent water quality”. This indicates progress from the 111 sites deemed to have excellent water quality in 2020.

The EPA report specifically highlighted improvements at Lilliput, Lough Ennell in Co Westmeath, which had had three years of poor quality. The agency said that during 2020 and 2021, the bathing water quality improved significantly due to actions taken by farmers in the surrounding area.

This was driven by “evidence and science” generated by Westmeath County Council, the local authority waters programme and the Agricultural Sustainability, Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) working together. As a result, the restriction on swimming has been removed, says the EPA.

Overall, the number of beaches with poor bathing water quality reduced to two, compared with four in 2020.

‘Still impacting’

The EPA says that Ireland’s improved bathing water quality is attributed to improved management over many years, combined with investments in treatment of urban waste water.

However, the EPA said that regardless of its findings, agriculture, urban waste water and fouling from dogs on beaches still impact the quality of bathing waters. In addition, it says heavy rainfall can also quickly impact water quality by washing pollution into our bathing waters.