The country has performed poorly in bathing water quality for years while other countries, including eastern European states, have made significant improvements.
The survey which is compiled annually by the European Environment Agency found only 110 coastal and inland sites were deemed excellent.
Most of the UK’s sites were not classified this year because Covid-19 restrictions prevented sampling, the Guardian reported, adding that it meant out of 640 sites, 457 received no verdict in the rankings.
Twelve sites where a verdict could be delivered were found to be poor, 29 of sufficient quality and 32 good, the paper added.
An investigation by the paper last year also found that water companies had poured raw sewage into rivers on more than 20,000 occasions in 2019.
The lack of data this year meant the UK remained at the bottom of the European league table, rivalled only by Poland, where just 22 per cent of sites were rated excellent.
Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Croatia and Austria led the way with 95 per cent or more of their sites qualifying as excellent. All of Cyprus’s sites received top marks, according to the Guardian.
The 2020 data will be the last to include the UK as the EEA only includes EU member states and non-members such as Turkey, Iceland and Switzerland in its survey. But the UK has chosen to opt out of EEA membership post-Brexit, meaning no such comparisons will be possible in future.
A government spokesperson told the paper: “The quality of bathing waters in England has improved significantly in the last 20 years. The latest data from 2019 shows that that 72 per cent achieved the highest standard of Excellent, while 98.3% passed the minimum standard.
“Visitors to coastal and inland swimming spots have over 400 bathing waters to choose from and can find out more information of the Environment Agency’s ‘Swimfo’ website.”
Lidija Globevnik, a project leader for bathing water at the European Topics Centre and an author of the report said that the climate crisis was also having an impact on bathing water.
She added that it was also impacting inland sites because dry spells reduce the amount of water in rivers and lakes, which could concentrate pollutants from agricultural runoff and other sources, the Guardian reported.
“There are many sites that are not identified as bathing waters, but people still swim there. There should be higher attention paid by the authorities to observe these sites, and act if there is a problem,” she continued.