During Berlin River Camp 2016, we went to the German Parliament to discuss water protection with parlamentarians (read more here),  we created a great and very different tour guide to Berlin's main river - the Spree: the “Travel guide to a river”, and we had impact for water protection - read here the interview with Silke Gebel (Member of the Berlin House of Representatives and chairman of the Green party Berlin).

Photo: An action from the Berlin River Camp (Photo credit: J. Lodemann).


The Berlin River Camp took place during the Big Jump Year 2014, focused on the EU-Bathing Water Directive:

Big Jump 2016 and the Bathing Water Directive

This year the Big Jump celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Bathing Water Directive. Huh? Let us provide some background for you: The goal of this European policy is to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment, i.e. here the bathing areas. For this, the directive mandates monitoring and managing the bathing water and to inform the public!

Depending on the levels of bacteria detected, the bathing water quality is classified as ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’. The European Environment Agency (EEA) produces an annual report based on data from the previous bathing season. The annual bathing water report in the European Union published on May 26th that suggests that bathing water quality has improved continuously over time. 96% of monitored bathing sites met the minimum standards for water quality in the 2015 bathing water season.

However, there are also limitations of the Directive. The water quality standards are not verified for those swimming spots that not officially count as bathing water, even if they are used in this way. In addition, at official swimming spots there is the question when to measure. Should it happen more often? For example, to track for pollution due to heavy rain events or human activities? And how to define the measurement? There are a lot of other micro-organisms in surface waters that are not routinely investigated, but can cause serious diseases. Here things quickly become complex and costly . . . unless we do not pollute our rivers and lakes in the first place. But even then, there is an important further issue. Many people no longer know how to swim in rivers. What are the opportunities, and what are the risks? Here more needs to be done to ensure fun, but also safe and healthy swimming. A first step in this direction are the systems developed by the EU (see graph).

A last interesting aspect of the Directive: according to article 11 of the Directive it is mandated to “encourage public participation in the implementation. This shall relate, in particular, to the establishment, review and updating of lists of bathing waters”. In plain words: your jump counts! So let’s make a big splash in 2016, for river swimming . . . and for living rivers. The “bathing spots” are actually “protected areas” under the Water Framework Directive. This makes sense: the human body is an indicator of good water quality for humans and for other living beings. You can protect rivers in your bathing suit. But this also means that you need to respect the river. Swim gently in the river, and leave no garbage behind.

More information

Alongside the report, the EEA has published an interactive map showing the performance of each bathing site. The best swimming areas were in Luxembourg, Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Germany and Austria—all of which had more than 90 percent of bathing sites rated “excellent”. The revised Directive also makes it easier for citizens to access information on bathing water quality through “bathing water profiles”. These online profiles contain information on the kind of pollution and sources that affect the quality of the bathing water and are a risk to bathers’ health.

You can read more about the relevant piece of legislation and policy here:

a. BWD - Bathing Water Directive (EU)

b. EEA - European Environment Agency (EU)

c. WFD - Water Framework Directive (EU) 

d. Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive 

e. Nitrates Directive


(Source: EEA Report No 9/2016)                                                                                                    
(Source: BWD 2006/7/EC)