The quality of Ireland’s bathing water continued to improve in 2021, with 97% of sites meeting or exceeding the minimum standard. The EPA said these improvements were a result of enhanced management of bathing waters over many years, combined with investments in treatment of urban wastewater.  

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published the Bathing Water in Ireland report for 2021, which shows that 78% of bathing sites have excellent water quality, while 97% meet the minimum standard. This is attributed to improved management of bathing waters over many years, combined with investments in treatment of urban waste water.

Urban wastewater

However, while bathing water quality has continued to improve overall, there are still issues which need to be addressed, to protect and further improve bathing waters. Agriculture, urban wastewater and fouling from dogs on beaches still impact the quality of bathing waters.

In addition, heavy rainfall can also quickly impact by washing pollution into our bathing waters. Swimmers should always check for the latest water quality information for their local bathing site.

Dr Eimear Cotter, director of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment, said: “Bathing water quality in Ireland is high and last year saw further improvements compared with 2020. This is good news as we approach the summer when we can enjoy our local beaches and bathing areas, which are an important natural amenity for health and wellbeing.  

"The EPA recognises that swimming is increasingly becoming a year-round activity and encourages the provision of information that will help winter swimmers to make informed choices to protect their health.

"The findings and outcome of the multi-stakeholder National Bathing Water Expert Group, due later this year, will provide important information in this regard and help identify potential options to better protect bathers who swim year-round.”

Actions taken by farmers

The EPA report specifically highlights improvements at Lilliput, Lough Ennell in Westmeath after three years at poor quality. 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 working together. As a result, the restriction on swimming has been removed.

The EPA encourages swimmers to engage with Local Authorities to officially identify additional local bathing sites which will ensure they are managed to protect bathers’ health.

Further information on bathing water and updates on monitoring results during the bathing water season (June 1 to September 15) are available at