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This Country Has the Cleanest Swimming Waters in the EU

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 6/15/2021 Rachel Chang
a group of people on a beach near a body of water: Getty Images © Provided by Travel + Leisure Getty Images

The Mediterranean has long been known for its remarkably clear waters - and there's one country where you can be sure the swimming waters are just as clean as they appear.

In a recent report issued by the European Environment Agency (EEA) that examined the water quality at 22,276 bathing sites across the 27 European Union nations plus Albania, Switzerland, and the U.K., the island nation of Cyprus came out with a perfect score of 100%, earning it top honors for having the highest quality standard of swimming waters that were tested between May 1 and Oct. 31 of 2020. In fact, of the 112 swimming sites in the country, every single one of them earned an "excellent" ranking.

a group of people on a beach: After the water was tested at 112 locations, this Mediterranean island nation earned a perfect score. © Getty Images After the water was tested at 112 locations, this Mediterranean island nation earned a perfect score.

On the whole, Europe's waters did fairly well, with 82.8% ranking "excellent" in 2020. Just behind Cyprus were Austria with 97.7%, Greece with 97.1%, Malta with 96.6%, and Croatia with 96.1% of its sites scoring the top quality category.

"The quality of European bathing waters remains high after four decades of action aimed at preventing and reducing pollution," Hans Bruyninckx, EEA executive director, said in a statement. "EU law has not only helped raised the overall quality, but also helped identify areas where specific action is needed."

It's welcome news for Cyprus, which suffered from the pandemic. Tourism dropped 85% in summer 2020 compared to the previous season, according to the Associated Press, which added that 13% of the country's GDP comes from tourism.

"There's a direct correlation between bathing water quality and tourism, and as a result, the excellent results are very important not only for the health of bathers and the environment, but also for the economy of Cyprus," Costas Kadis, the country's environment minister, told the AP.

On the other end of the scale, a total of 296 sites - or 1.3% of those tested - ranked "poor." The U.K., which was in the EU at the time of the study, only had 17.2% in the "excellent" category, while Poland had 22.1%.

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