Image: Horácio Villalobos/ Lusa

Quality of Portugal’s waters is deteriorating – ZERO

Nearly 30 beaches have been temporarily ‘off limits’ for e-coli/ bacteria  this summer

Portugal is barely half way through its busiest summer month, and already 28 beaches have seen ‘do not swim’ notices go up, due to fleeting water contamination – generally with e-coli (the bacteria associated with raw sewage).

Elsewhere, several beaches have bathing either prohibited, or ‘advised against’.

Warns environmental association ZERO, the quality of Portugal’s waters is deteriorating.

Up close, the data may not sound too serious – right now there are 658 beaches ready for holidaymakers, with only a limited number showing problems – but, according to ZERO, this limited number is still greater than it was this time last summer.

“Discouragement or outright bans on bathing, even for a short period of time, have affected 28 beaches, seven more than in the same period last year,” the association explains.

In those 28 bathing areas, analyses “exceeded limits set technically at national level” for at least one of the two microbiological parameters that are evaluated (Escherichia coli and intestinal Enterococus).

Waters that have so far presented the highest number of ‘unfit to swim’ situations are in Funchal, Madeira: Poças do Gomes, Doca do Cavacas and Gorgulho. Four beaches in Albufeira (Galé-Leste, Galé-Oeste, Inatel-Albufeira and Pescadores) and one beach in each of the municipalities of Aljezur (Amoreira-Rio), Cascais (Duquesa), Matosinhos (Matosinhos) and Porto (Castelo do Queijo). (Aljezur’s classification was made before Amoreira-Rio was dredged: the situation post-dredging has restored the beach and its waters, certainly in the eyes of all those who use it).

But on Wednesday, the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) warned that bathing in the waters of the North, Centre and South beaches of Matosinhos was not recommended, again due to “microbiological contamination”.

Says Lusa, on a national level, Albufeira is the municipality with the highest number of beaches that have been affected this year by unsuitable quality and/or bans.

Inland beaches are proportionally more affected (11% as opposed to just 5% of coastal beaches), according to Zero, which calls for the need to ascertain causes and above all prevent contamination.

Many of the beaches affected by bans or ‘advice against bathing’ this year  “have an excellent (overall) rating”, ZERO adds – meaning contamination in the context of legislation was fleeting, and “may not even jeopardise their quality”.

There are also 41 ‘bathing water’ where no analysis is available.

Bottom line, none of the 54 beaches on ZERO’s ZERO Pollution listing this year have had any bans associated with their water quality. Spread over 26 municipalities, these 54 beaches have no microbiological contamination according to water analyses carried out over the last three years.

This number represents only 8% of the 658 Portuguese beaches that are in operation this summer.

ZERO’s top beaches are:


  • Albufeira: Evaristo, Falésia Alfamar, Manuel Lourenço, Rocha Baixinha, Rocha Baixinha-Nascente, Rocha and Rocha Baixinha-Poente.
  • Alcobaça: Água de Madeiros, Légua e Pedra do Ouro.
  • Aljezur: Amoreira-Mar, Bordeira and Vale Figueira.
  • Caldas da Rainha: Praia do Mar.
  • Caminha: Forte do Cão.
  • Faro: Barreta, Culatra-Mar and Ilha do Farol-Mar.
  • Mafra: Coxos and S. Lourenço.
  • Matosinhos: Pedras Brancas.
  • Nazaré: Salgado.
  • Odemira: Almograve, Alteirinhos and Santa Clara.
  • Sesimbra: Bicas, Lagoas de Albufeira-Mar and Moinho de Baixo-Meco.
  • Sintra: Grande and S. Julião.
  • Tavira: Barril, Cabanas-Mar, Ilha de Tavira-Mar and Terra Estreita.
  • Torres Vedras: Formosa.
  • Viana do Castelo: Afife.
  • Vila do Bispo: Burgau, Castelejo, Cordoama and Salema.
  • Vila Real de Santo António: Fábrica-Mar.


  • Madalena: Cais Mourato.
  • Praia da Vitória: Prainha (Praia da Vitória).
  • Santa Cruz das Flores: Santa Cruz das Flores.
  • São Roque do Pico: Poças de São Roque.
  • Velas: Preguiça-Velas.
  • Vila do Porto: Formosa, Maia and São Lourenço.


  • Porto Moniz: Laje.
  • Porto Santo: Porto Santo-Cabeço da Ponta, Porto Santo-Lagoa, Porto Santo-Ribeiro Cochino and Porto Santo-Ribeiro Salgado.