If the weather is summery, lots of people like to swim not just in the swimming pool, but also in the sea, rivers, (bathing) lakes, marshes and other surface water. However, not all the surface water is suitable for swimming.
Every year the provincial governments designate official outdoor bathing locations which they monitor in terms of safety and quality. There are approximately 700 official bathing water locations in the Netherlands. The water in these official bathing locations is tested every two or four weeks during the bathing season (1 May to 1 October), depending on the average quality over the past four years
The quality of Dutch bathing water is good. During past bathing seasons almost 95% of the outdoor bathing locations fulfil the set minimum standards for the microbiological quality of bathing water.
Despite the good quality bathing water, the provincial governments and Municipal Public Health Services still receive notifications of health problems relating to swimming in surface water every year.
The website Zwemwater.nl contains up-to-date information about the hygiene and safety of the designated outdoor bathing locations in the Netherlands.
Sick from swimming
Contaminated bathing water can cause illnesses through skin contact or swallowing. Possible health issues which may arise after swimming in contaminated surface water are gastrointestinal infections, skin complaints (e.g. swimmer's itch), ear or eye infections and/or flu-like symptoms. Due to their greater sensitivity to infectious diseases, children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with a weak immune system face more risks in terms of health problems.
Despite the good quality bathing water the provincial governments and Municipal Public Health Services still receive notifications of health problems relating to swimming in surface water every year.
A strong relationship exists between the number of notifications during a bathing season and the weather during the summer holidays. In hot summers people swim more and, in addition, warmer water contains more pathogens. The majority of the notifications relate to skin complaints. Because not all complaints are reported, the actual number is probably higher.
Bathing water policy
The European Bathing Water Directive 2006/7/EC is intended to protect the health of swimmers. The rules contained in this directive are intended to ensure cleaner bathing water and a better provision of information to swimmers. The European Bathing Water Directive is based on four quality classes: 'excellent', 'good', 'acceptable' and 'poor'.
Designating bathing water locations
The provincial government has the task of designating bathing water locations every year (and, if necessary, rejecting them) and of providing people with general and up-to-date information about bathing water.
Bathing water quality
The party that manages a bathing water location monitors the bathing water quality during the bathing season (1 May to 1 October). Water quality data is reported to the provincial government during and at the end of the bathing season.
Watch where you swim
Only swim at officially designated bathing water locations.
Check Zwemwater.nl for up-to-date information about the quality of the bathing water or download the app with more than 800 outdoor bathing locations in the Netherlands.
Bathing water is not tested outside the bathing season (which runs from 1 May to 1 October). If you want to swim outside the season, you have to decide yourself whether it is a responsible thing to do.