With the arrival of spring and the anticipation of summer, Flanders is preparing to relax its rules and regulations for outdoor swimming. This adjustment, first

announced in a press conference last May, has now been officially confirmed and laid down in a decree by the Flemish government on Friday.

The decree eliminates several conditions for the recognition of swimming areas. Previously mandatory requirements such as the provision of showers, sanitary facilities, shower cabins, and fire extinguishers have been removed. Additionally, revisions have been made to criteria concerning the bottom surface, including the stipulation of a sandy surface and maximum gradient. Furthermore, the legislation introduces a new category of bathing water known as the free-swimming zone, empowering local authorities to expand their offerings by providing additional sites.

In order to establish a new swimming zone, certain prerequisites must be met. These include conducting a water quality test, obtaining authorization from the owner or manager of the area, and conducting a risk assessment approved by Healthcare and Health authorities. Local governments will have the opportunity to register their sites through a designated counter set to open by the end of March.

While neighboring Netherlands has opted for complete deregulation of swimming areas, this approach is not considered viable in Belgium. Flemish Minister of the Environment Zuhal Demir (N-VA) highlights the higher incidence of drownings per million inhabitants in the Netherlands, emphasizing the Flemish government's commitment to safety and water quality. Consequently, complete deregulation is viewed as a step too far, with Flanders opting for a more controlled approach to outdoor swimming regulations.