Bathing water quality remains high overall, but heavy summer rainfall is putting pressure on our beaches

·         Bathing water quality in 2023 was high overall, with 97 per cent (143 of 148) of sites meeting or exceeding the minimum standard, the same number as in 2022.

·         114 bathing sites (77 per cent) had excellent water quality, down from 117 in 2022.

·         The number of beaches with poor bathing water quality increased to five, compared with three in 2022.  Discharges from wastewater overflows and misconnections are the main issue at these beaches. 

·         The wet weather in July and August 2023 put pressure on our beaches resulting in more beach closures to protect public health.

·         The rainfall events in 2023 highlighted the need to build climate resilience into the effective management of bathing waters

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published the Bathing Water Quality in Ireland report for 2023 which shows that water quality at the majority of Ireland’s bathing waters was of a high standard. 77 per cent of bathing sites have ‘Excellent’ water quality while 97 per cent meet the minimum standard.

Bathing water quality can be impacted by heavy rainfall. This results in waste water overflows and in runoff from agricultural lands and urban areas which can cause short-term deterioration in water quality. In 2023 urban waste water related incidents were the most frequently reported cause of beach closures. Run-off from agriculture, fouling from dogs left on the beach, wastewater from properties going to surface water drains rather than sewer (known as misconnections) and algal blooms also impacted on bathing waters.

Record rainfall levels in July and storms in August led to more beach closures in 2023 than in previous years. The rainfall events in 2023 highlighted the need to build climate resilience into the effective management of bathing waters.

Commenting on the report, Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA, Office of Evidence and Assessment, said:

“While our bathing water quality is generally very good overall, there is a need to build climate resilience into the management of bathing waters to reduce the risk of pollution following heavy rainfall.  This needs action by all sectors including Uisce Éireann, local authorities, and agriculture to reduce overflows from urban waste water systems, and runoff from urban areas and agricultural land.  While beach closures play an important role in protecting bathers’ health, local authorities need to improve their understanding of the pressures which can impact beaches in the context of changing rainfall patterns.” 

The number of beaches classified as poor increased from three to five in 2023.  These are Balbriggan Front Strand Beach, Lady’s Bay (Buncrana), Trá na mBan (An Spidéal), which were also poor in 2022, and Loughshinny and Sandymount beaches in Dublin. The relevant local authorities and Uisce Éireann have plans in place to improve water quality at these beaches. These must be fully implemented to make these beaches safe for swimming.  

No new bathing water sites were identified in 2023, although monitoring continues at almost 80 beaches not formally identified.  The EPA encourages swimmers to engage with local authorities to officially identify and manage additional bathing sites to protect bathers’ health.

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

Swimmers should always check and the signage at the beach for the latest water quality information for their local bathing site.

The report Bathing Water Quality in Ireland 2023 is now available on the EPA website.


Throughout this summer, water quality information and details of any incidents affecting bathing waters will be displayed on the website.

The Bathing Water Quality in Ireland 2023 report, infographic and a map of the quality of Ireland’s Bathing water sites in 2023 are available on the EPA website.

In summary the key findings of the Bathing Water Quality in Ireland report for 2023 were:

  • 97 per cent of bathing waters (143 of 148) met or exceeded the minimum required standard.
  • 114 (77 per cent) bathing waters were classified as ‘Excellent’, down from 117 in 2022.
  • 5 bathing waters were classified as ‘Poor’, up from three in 2022. These are:
    • Balbriggan – Front Strand Beach, Co. Dublin which is impacted by sewage discharges and misconnections; faeces from dogs, birds and other animals and contaminated surface streams flowing through the town.
    • Loughshinny Beach, Co. Dublin, which is impacted by sewage discharges, misconnections from domestic plumbing systems, septic tanks, faeces from dogs, horses and birds, and contaminated streams which flow into the bathing water.
    • Sandymount Strand, Co. Dublin, which is impacted by pollution from contaminated streams, misconnections, sewage discharges and faeces from dogs and birds.
    • Lady’s Bay, Buncrana, Co. Donegal which is impacted by Buncrana waste water treatment plant, combined stormwater overflows, and surface run-off, which are made worse by heavy rainfall.
    • Trá na mBan, An Spidéal, Co. Galway which is impacted by the Spiddal sewer network, run-off from agriculture, and discharges from septic tanks.

Local Authority management plans have been put in place to address the sources of pollution at these beaches.

  • One bathing water, Aillebrack/Silverhill Beach, Co. Galway was classified for the first time with Excellent quality.
  • There were no new bathing waters identified in 2023.
  • 45 pollution incidents were reported to the EPA during 2023, in comparison to 34 in 2022. Incidents have the potential to cause a pollution risk and, when they occur, swimming restrictions are applied at the beach until sampling shows the water quality is safe.
  • Local authorities also put up 228 ‘Prior Warning’ notices at beaches in 2023, to warn swimmers that short-term pollution (lasting no more than a few days) may occur due to heavy rainfall. This was an increase of 42 from 2022. These warnings are removed when sampling shows the water quality is safe.

Bathing season: The designated bathing season in Ireland is from 1st June to 15th September.

Identified Bathing Waters: This is the legal term used for those beaches and lakes managed under the Bathing Water Regulations.  Local authorities are responsible for identifying Bathing Waters within their area annually. The 148 identified bathing waters are either coastal or inland waters widely used by the public for bathing and are monitored, managed and assessed under the requirements of the 2008 Bathing Water Quality Regulations.

Classification: Bathing areas are classified in one of four categories namely ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ or ‘Poor’.  The minimum mandatory requirement is for ‘Sufficient’ quality.  Any waters graded as ‘Poor’ require that management measures be put in place to identify and eliminate the sources of pollution.

Assessment: Bathing Waters are classified based on a statistical assessment of monitoring data over a four-year period.

Bathing at sites classified as having ‘Poor’ water quality: The fact that any bathing water has been classified as ‘Poor’ means that there is a risk of microbiological pollution being present which could potentially cause illness such as skin rashes or gastric upset.  Under the Bathing Water Regulations, local authorities are required to put in place notifications for the entire bathing season advising the public against bathing.  This could include a bathing prohibition if a serious pollution incident occurs.

Pollution incident: This is an incident that has the potential to cause the bathing water quality to deteriorate, for example when there is a stormwater overflow from a waste water treatment plant, or when sampling identifies pollution. A precautionary approach is taken when reporting incidents, meaning that not all incidents result in a deterioration in the bathing water quality. This approach is taken to protect bathers’ health. When a pollution incident occurs, local authorities apply a swimming restriction at the bathing water. The restriction stays in place until water sampling shows that the water quality has returned to normal.

Prior Warning: Prior Warnings (also known as ‘Short-Term Pollution’) are used in a precautionary approach to protect bathers’ health by advising the public of possible short-term pollution events which usually last for only a few days at most. These are used by many local authorities when heavy rainfall is forecast.

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