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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


Regulatory Developments

published on 04/16/2008
A new European Directive, which will replace the current European Directive, was adopted on 15 February 2006 by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament.
The Directive states how Member States are to go about:
  • monitoring and rating the quality of bathing water,
  • managing the quality of bathing water,
  • providing information to the public.
The rules set out pertain to natural untreated water used by bathers (it does not, for instance, pertain to swimming pools).

What will change with the new Directive

The new Directive on bathing water quality, which will gradually replace the current Directive, takes the requirements from the 1976 Directive and both strengthens and updates them. The changes pertain in particular to a number of health quality parameters and the need to inform the public.
The Directive also strengthens the concept of bathing water management by introducing a bathing water “profile”. In the profile, the sources of pollution likely to activity bathing water quality and put bathers’ health at risk are identified and studied. This will make it possible to better manage, in a preventive manner, any possible contamination of the bathing site.
Changes in bathing water quality assessment procedures:
  • 2 microbiological parameters to be checked
  • 4 samples per bathing season at least
Changes in assessment and quality rating procedures for bathing waters:
  • Different quality standards for seawater and freshwater
  • Assessment of quality achieved, based on statistical analysis of all data on bathing water quality gathered over 4 seasons
  • 4 quality classifications for bathing water
Decrease in health risk due to bathing water:
  • Tighter microbiological threshold values
  • Incentives for players involved to improve water quality in order to prevent bathing sites from closing down (sanitation work, etc.)
  • Closing of certain non-compliant bathing sites
  • Monitoring and management measures concerning cyanobacteria, macro-algae and marine phytoplankton, in the event of bloom risk.
Definition of bathing water profiles:
  • Tools designed to identify pollution sources
  • Possibility of acting on those sources to improve water quality
Informing and involving the public:
  • An informed public becomes an active party in bathing water quality management
A few dates to keep in mind
  • The Directive must be incorporated into French law by 24 March 2008.
  • The current Directive shall be repealed on 31 December 2014.
  • The bathing water profiles are to be drawn up by 2011 at the latest.
  • The first classification based on four years of sampling is to be established by the 2015 season, at the latest.
  • All of the waters must reach at least sufficient quality by the 2015 season.
  • The possible revision of the Directive shall occur in 2020 at the latest, based on the results of epidemiological studies, WHO recommendations, scientific progress and any observations made by the European Union Member States.