Skip to main content


Title: Recreational Water Quality Objectives and Standards: Phase 1 - Data collection, presentation and recommendations
Author: R Pond K
Author: Environment Agency
Document Type: Monograph
Annotation: Environment Agency Project ID:EAPRJOUT_1071, Representation ID: 329, Object ID: 2343
Surface and coastal waters are used for a variety of recreational activities involving varying degrees of contact with the water. The beneficial effects of water and its recreational use have been long recognised. However, individuals using water for recreational purposes also expose themselves to a variety of health hazards. These include accidents such as drowning and spinal injury; poor microbiological quality of the water resulting from sewage discharges and agricultural runoff; and naturally occurring hazards such as leptospirosis and toxic cyanobacteria. Leisure activities, including water-based recreation are likely to increase and the effects of the health hazards that recreational water users face will probably gain more prominence in the future. Those responsible for monitoring and regulating the quality of recreational water use areas are liable to face increasingly complex challenges in the future as the number of users increase and the recreational uses diversify. Recreational bathing water quality in the UK has been regulated by the European Community Bathing Waters Directive since 1976. Since the drafting of this legislation, and many of the standards adopted throughout the World, considerable research has been undertaken to investigate the health effects associated with bathing in recreational waters. In recent years, with the availability of wet suits, the behaviour of users has changed and coastal and inland waters are used year-round for a variety of activities such as surfing and diving involving prolonged immersion in the water. It is now recognised globally that recreational water standards need updating to reflect the new scientific knowledge that has emerged, the change in behaviour of users and their expectations towards their quality of life. This report aims to identify a set of objective criteria with which to categorise waters according to use, measure trends and changes and ensure that uses are adequately protected. A review of global recreational water standards show the inconsistencies in parameters measured and standards not only between countries but also within countries. Compliance with standards is generally based on microbiological quality of the water body. Physical, chemical and aesthetic parameters are identified but are generally not considered in compliance. However, aesthetic parameters will become particularly pertinent where the use of the recreational water use area is apassivea such as picnicking, walking, horse-riding etc. Very few previous attempts have been made globally to classify water according to use. It is apparent that accurate figures for the scale of participation in various watersports do not exist and at present there is no formal system for collecting this data. A classification system based on use the levels of participation needs to be established. A suitable set of health-related criteria which could be used to categorise waters based on the health risks to users must be identified. Despite the achievements that have been made in research into the health effects of swimming in sewage contaminated marine waters very few epidemiological investigations have been conducted into health effects of watersports other than swimming in marine waters. Currently there is insufficient epidemiological data to identify health-related standards for other activities in marine waters or for feshwaters. Behavioural patterns of recreational r R and D TECHNICAL REPORT P2-253/TR i water users are not well known, in particular time spent in the water and the volume of water ingested, which will directly influence the degree of contact with infectious and toxic agents, and other potential hazards - physical, chemical and aesthetic found in recreational water. R and D TECHNICAL REPORT P2-253/TR ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The author would like to thank Dr Steve Pedley and Dr Gareth Rees, Robens Centre for Public and Environmental Health for assisting in the final review of this report and the following for providing information: Mr Richard Lugg, Dr Graham Mcbride, Dr Alfred Dufour, Dr Jamie Bartram, Mr Tim Turner and Mr Peter Cornell. R and D TECHNICAL REPORT P2-253/TR iii CONTENTS PAGE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iii 1.
Publisher: Environment Agency
Subject Keywords: Legislation; Standards; Public health; Guidelines; Watersports; Classification schemes; Recreational water use areas
Extent: 90
Total file downloads: 0

Download PDF    Display PDF in separate tab