Water quality tests at bathing spots used by year-round swimmers are still unavailable outside of the summer, leaving them without warning when pollution incidents occur.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants more information to be provided throughout the year.
Its annual bathing water quality report shows good results for the country’s officially designated bathing areas, but in most cases the tests are only conducted from June 1st to September 15th.
“The EPA recognizes that swimming is increasingly becoming a year-round activity and encourages the provision of information to help winter swimmers make informed decisions to protect their health,” said Dr. Eimear Cotter.
She said a national bathing water expert group established over a year ago should report later this year and help identify options to better protect year-round swimmers.
A total of 148 coastal and inland bathing areas are officially designated, which obliges local authorities to keep them to a safe and clean standard.
115 of them were rated excellent, another 19 were rated good and 10 were enough to meet the minimum requirements.
Two received poor ratings, Balbriggan Front Strand in north Co Dublin and Lady’s Bay, Buncrana, Co Donegal.
Both suffer from sewage pollution among other issues, but Irish Water plans to make improvements to the sewage treatment plants in both areas this year.
Clifden beach in Co Galway has had to be de-designated after receiving a poor rating for five consecutive years.
Lilliput at Ennel, Co. Westmeath received no rating after being de-designated for a series of below standard ratings, but sufficient improvement was recorded to warrant a reassignment for that year’s official swimming season.
dr Cotter said the overall results are welcome and continue the trend of improvements seen in recent years.
However, she warned that there were still issues that needed to be addressed, including farm runoff, urban sewage and dog waste.
Heavy rains continue to cause problems as stormwater runoff overflows onto the beaches.
Local authorities issued 104 alerts last year, advising swimmers that heavy rains can cause quality problems, although only six were later found to have problems.
A further 42 incidents of pollution were reported, although not all resulted in deterioration in water quality.