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used methods of defining a recreational water as passing or failing a defined microbiological standard has inherent limitations; these are discussed in this chapter and also in Chapter 9.

8.1 Sanitary inspection and sampling programmes

A sanitary inspection is a search for, and evaluation of, existing and potential microbiological hazards that could affect the safe use of a particular stretch of recreational water or bathing beach. It provides the foundation required to design and implement an effective water quality sampling programme and provides valuable information to assist in the interpretation of water quality data. In particular, it provides public health authorities with information to aid the selection of sampling locations, times and frequencies, in order to estimate more accurately water quality and therefore to allow for sound risk management decisions (see Chapter 9).

A comprehensive sanitary inspection of an existing recreational area should be conducted annually, just prior to the bathing season. The annual inspection should not only look for new sources of microbiological hazards but also review the adequacy of any sampling programme and corrective measures in place to deal with existing hazards. Further inspections should be conducted along with routine sampling during the bathing season, in order to identify recent events and their impact on water quality. During the peak bathing season additional inspections at different days and times of the day may provide a more complete picture of the bathing area.

Comprehensive inspections should be conducted prior to any major new or proposed activity which could significantly alter the microbiological quality of the water in an existing recreational water use area. A sanitary inspection should therefore be carried out as part of, or in response to, any proposal to expand or develop a new recreational bathing area. The findings of the inspection should receive prime consideration in any decision to proceed with development. A comprehensive annual sanitary inspection consists of four steps:

  • Pre-inspection preparations.

  • An on-site visit.

  • The preparation of a preliminary report including recommendations on location of

sampling sites and changes to the sampling frequency if necessary.

  • The preparation of a final assessment report often in combination with water quality


While sampling, important field data can be obtained at each bathing area by inspecting specific sources of pollution. Microbial contamination may be suspected, for example, when inspection reveals abnormal colouration or odour of the water at the bathing site. In the Mediterranean coastal area where the influence of tides is minimal, changes in microbiological quality are mainly due to riverine and direct, especially urban, discharges at the bathing site. The microbiological contamination produced by long sea outfalls, if well designed, is normally diluted and should not influence the microbiological quality of

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