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Bathing water quality
Sanitary control organisation
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Water and health

Why and How is Bathing Water Quality Assessed?


Table of contents


Interpreting the Results

published on 05/21/2008

Water quality assessment criteria

Water quality is assessed in accordance with the provisions of the Public Health Code.
Bathing water quality is assessed using two types of indicators: microbiological (bacteria) and physico-chemical:
  • The microbiological analyses carried out focus on germ (bacteria) count, as these are indicators of faecal contamination. These are micro-organisms normally present in the intestinal flora of mammals and man in particular. Their presence in water denotes faecal contamination in the bathing areas. In this respect, they are an indicator of pollution from wastewater and reflect the likely presence of pathogens. The higher the concentrations of such germs, the greater the health risk.
    The bacteria sought in laboratory analysis are:
    • total coliforms;
    • Escherichia coli;
    • intestinal enterococci.
    Under certain circumstances, should the threshold quality values be exceeded or wastewater runoff pollution be found, tests may be performed to identify other germs (salmonella, enteroviruses, etc.).
  • The physical and chemical parameters are measured or assessed based on appearance or small, in the field. They cover:
    • the presence of foams, phenols (aromatic chemical compounds, used to manufacture products such as pharmaceutical products, perfumes, essential oils and solvents), and mineral oils (hydrocarbon mixtures),
    • water colour, and
    • water transparency.
  • Based on field observations, other parameters also need to be measured, in particular in a laboratory setting: pH, nitrates, phosphates, chlorophyll, cyanobacteria, micro pollutants (heavy metals, etc.)…