Swimming sites in Cyprus ranked cleanest in Europe

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Struggling Cyprus should be able to lure tourist revenue with pristine bathing waters, ranked the European Union’s best in the latest EU bathing report published on Tuesday.

In contrast, Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands had the highest percentages of bathing sites that failed to meet EU standards in 2012, in part because torrential rains washed sewage into them.

The trend overall was positive as 94 percent of beaches, lakes and rivers in the European Union met minimum water quality standards in 2012, up from 92 percent in 2011, according to the report from the European Environment Agency, a body set up to guide EU policymakers.

But nearly two percent of bathing sites at beaches, lakes and rivers had poor water quality, and the percentages of non-compliant sites in Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands were respectively 12 percent, 6 percent and 7 percent.

“More remains to be done,” EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said in a statement. “Water is a precious resource and we need to put into practice all the necessary measures to protect it in full.”

In Cyprus and Luxembourg all listed sites achieved excellent water quality.

Other EU countries where the share of bathing sites ranked pristine was above the EU average of 78 percent were Malta (97 percent), Greece (93 percent), Germany (88 percent), Portugal (87 percent), Italy (85 percent), Finland (83 percent) and Spain (83 percent).

Croatia, which joins the European Union on July 1, also had excellent water quality at 95 percent of its bathing sites.

Reporting by Barbara Lewis, editing by Paul Casciato