Pollution (EO 9)

Common Indicator 21: Percentage of intestinal enterococci concentration measurements within established standards

Geographical scale of the assessment:
Regional, Mediterranean Sea
Contributing countries:
Contracting Parties by research studies
Mid-Term Strategy (MTS) Core Theme:
1-Land and Sea Based Pollution
Ecological Objective:
EO9. Contaminants cause no significant impact on coastal and marine ecosystems and human health
IMAP Common Indicator:
CI21. Percentage of intestinal enterococci concentration measurements within established standards
Indicator Assessment Factsheet Code:

GES Definition: Concentrations of intestinal enterococci are within established standards 

GES Targets:

  • State: Increasing trend in the percentage of intestinal enterococci concentration measurements within established standards



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.

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Assessment methods

The present assessment has been undertaken based on reference documents, as no sufficient updated datasets at regional scale are available. The future assessments of Common Indicator 21will be based on the statistics from datasets submitted by local national authorities or/and the corresponding agencies. Standards of application within IMAP Common Indicator 21 compliance by Mediterranean countries will be the proposed criteria adopted by decision IG.20/9, which includes the intestinal enterococci sample criteria.

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Results and Status, including trends

As mentioned, the datasets for the most Eastern and Southern Mediterranean countries are not updated recently, and therefore, the full assessment at regional scale for Common Indicator 21 is not possible. An assessment report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) Report on Bathing Water Quality  (from 2015) merged with MED POL data for Tunisia (from 2014) shows about a 90% or higher of the sites monitored during the bathing season for some Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention classified as good or excellent. Exceptions are Albania and Tunisia were around a 40% and 10%, respectively, show a poor sanitary condition of the bathing and recreational waters.

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The implementation of measures (e.g. sewage treatment plants) to reduce, among others, the faecal pollution in coastal waters, has been a story-of-success in the Mediterranean Sea through the UN Mediterranean Action Plan. The generalization of the domestic waters depuration in a number of countries the latest decade has demonstrated the benefits of implementing the LBS protocol and environmental measures to reduce pollution, despite some few improvements still need to be taken.

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Key messages

  • An increasing trend in measurements is needed to be able to test that levels of intestinal enterococci comply with established standards for GES achievement under Common Indicator 21.

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EEA (2014).  Horizon 2020 Mediterranean Report – Towards shared environmental information systems EEA-UNEP/MAP Joint Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2014

EEA (2015). European bathing water quality in 2015. EEA Report. No 9/2016. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2016.

European Union Directive 2006/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the council of 15 February 2006 concerning the management of bathing water quality and repealing Directive 76/160/EEC

Kay, D., Bartram, J., et al. (2004). Derivation of numerical values for the World Health Organization guidelines for recreational waters. Water Research, 38, 1296-1304.

Mansilha, C.R., Coelho, C., et al. (2009). Bathing waters: New directive, new standards, new quality approach. Mar. Poll. Bull. 58, 1562-1565.

UNEP/MAP (2013). Decision IG.21/3 - Ecosystems Approach including adopting definitions of Good Environmental Status (GES) and Targets. COP 18, Istanbul, Turkey. United Nations Environment Programme, Mediterranean Action Plan, Athens.

UNEP/MAP (2012). Decision IG.20/9. Criteria and Standards for bathing waters quality in the framework of the implementation of Article 7 of the LBS Protocol. COP17, Paris, 2012.

UNEP/MAP MED POL, (2010). Assessment of the state of microbial pollution in the Mediterranean Sea. MAP Technical Reports Series No. 170 (Amended).

WHO  (2003). Guidelines for safe recreational water environments. VOLUME 1: Coastal and fresh waters. WHO Library. ISBN 92 4 154580. World Health Organisation, 2003.