Background (CI21)

Background (short)

The Mediterranean Sea continues to attract every year an ever-increasing number of international and local tourists that among their activities use the sea for recreational purposes. Back in 2005, the number of sewage treatment plants was doubled with respect the precedent decade and the water quality with regard to fecal pollution clearly improved (UNEP/MAP MED POL, 2010). The establishment of sewage treatment plants and the construction of submarine outfall structures have decreased the potential for episodes of microbiological pollution; despite few major coastal hotpots still exist. A revision of the Mediterranean guidelines for bathing water quality was formulated in 2007 based on the WHO Guidelines for Safe Recreational Water Environments (WHO, 2003) and on the EC Directive for Bathing Waters (Directive 2006/7/ EU). Later on, a revised UNEP/MAP proposal was made in an effort to provide updated criteria and standards that could be used in the Mediterranean countries, as well as to harmonize their legislation in order to provide homogenous information and data (UNEP/MAP, 2012a). High levels of enterococci bacteria in recreational marine waters (coasts, beaches, tourism spots, etc) are known to be indicative of human pathogens due to non-treated discharges into the marine environment and cause human infections (Kay et al., 2004; Mansilha et al, 2009). Therefore, these new standards for bathing waters quality in the framework of the implementation of Article 7 of the LBS Protocol should be further used to define GES in bathing and recreational waters.

GES for Common Indicator 21 will be accomplished when concentrations of intestinal enterococci would be within the established standards (UNEP/MAP, 2013).

Figure 1
Figure 1: A high bathing water quality in Mediterranean beaches is a key element within safe recreational activities in the coastal environment

Background (extended)         

High levels of enterococci bacteria in recreational marine waters (coasts, beaches, tourism spots, etc.) are known to be indicative of human pathogens due to non-treated discharges into the marine environment and cause human infections (Kay et al., 2004; Mansilha et al, 2009). Therefore, these standards for bathing waters quality in the framework of the implementation of Article 7 of the LBS Protocol should be further used to define GES in bathing and recreational waters. Currently, is the only faecal indicator bacteria recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for brackish and marine waters. The simplicity of the analytical methods for their measurements has favoured the use of enterococci species as a surrogate of polluted recreational waters. The World Health Organization has been concerned with health aspects of the management of water resources for many years and published various documents concerning the safety of environmental waters and its importance for health, including marine waters. A revision of the Mediterranean guidelines (UNEP/MAP, 2012) for bathing water quality were formulated in 2007 based on the WHO Guidelines for Safe Recreational Water Environments (WHO, 2003) and on the EC Directive for Bathing Waters (Directive 2006/7/ EU).