The European Commission warned its members against exploiting a loophole that allows them to show an official improvement in water quality of lakes and rivers by taking problem sites off a list sent to Brussels.
According to the EU's executive body, Spain was the worst. Madrid's compliance with EU water standards for inland swimming sites has rocketed since 1994. Over the same period it has deleted 65 percent of those areas from its list, relinquishing its obligation to monitor them under EU rules. The Commission is currently deciding whether to fine Madrid for breaking the rules in the past, according to Reuters.
"Of course you will have compliance rates going up to 96 percent if you remove five percent (per year) of the most difficult sites," an EU official said about Spain.
Last year 92.3 percent of the European Union's inland freshwater swimming zones complied with EU standards, up 1.2 percent in 2002. These figures do not include the 10 countries which joined the EU last month.
The Commission also said that 98.6 percent of EU coastal beaches met the standards for clean water, up from 95.8 in 2002.
Diarrhea, vomiting and skin and eye infections can all be caused by swimming in polluted water.