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Bathing water quality: a challenge for monitoring and information


What is the quality of the water millions of vacationers bathe in each summer? New technologies are being developed to overcome health and economic challenges to better control the quality of lakes, rivers, and oceans water, and to better inform both local users and vacationers.

For several years now, the European Union has been dealing with the issue of bathing water quality through heightened monitoring and stricter standards. The EU’s efforts have been successful. Ninety-five per cent of bathing locations met minimum defined standards for water quality in 2014 (source: European Environment Agency), with water quality being on the rise since 2013. Because bathing water quality is both an economic and ecologic asset for localities, it is an issue that mobilises all those working in the field of water, institutions and companies, as well as citizens

Close monitoring to prevent the risk of pollution

European Union regulatory analyses recommend a minimum of four samplings per season at each bathing site. These samples are designed to evaluate the presence of two bacteria, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and intestinal enterococci, which may be present in the water through point-source pollution or after heavy rains.

Screenshots of the iBeach application

In addition to these regulatory analyses, numerous bathing site managers are deciding to implement a continuous water quality monitoring system so as to monitor any changes in quality more closely and to react more quickly in case water quality drops. This is being done in Marseille, for example, where over 1,500 analyses have been carried out in 2015 along ten kilometres of coastline encompassing 21 beaches. In addition to these analyses, the city decided to carry out increased monitoring using forecasting tools. Beginning from 2016 it will use COWAMA (COastal WAter MAnagement) software developed by SUEZ. This solution is based on modelling to evaluate risks of pollution in bathing waters on a daily basis. The COWAMA system uses multiple data sources linked to the weather, ocean currents, and the status of sewer systems and rainwater drainage systems to predict the arrival of pollution at a bathing location, its impact on water quality, and the number, frequency, and distribution of bacteriological analyses that may be needed. It can also be used as an an off-line planning tool for new projects and as an alert system for bathers and beach managers.
Indeed, getting information to vacationers is another key issue tied to bathing water quality.

Applications for providing information to vacationers

Mobile applications for providing information directly to vacationers on bathing water quality and beach status that have already been in testing for several years are multiplying. In France, Marseille and Biarritz recently announced the launching of the dedicated mobile applications “Marseille Infos Plage” and “Biarritz Infos Plage” .
This trend is also evident in the United States, where cities like San Francisco and San Diego on the coast of California are also making applications available to vacationers.
The various functionalities offered by these applications give users real-time access to all the information, including outside temperatures, the UV index, wind speed, which guarantees user an optimal bathing experience!

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