SAS campaigned for better protection for recreational water users through the European Bathing Water Directive. This legislation currently dates back to 1976 and tests water quality across the EU over the 20 week bathing season from the beginning of May to the end of September. Beaches are currently classified as excellent, good or poor, but are completely ‘out of sync’ with world health expert opinion and modern day recreational water use. For example a beach passing the good water quality standard still presents a bather with a 12 – 15% risk of contracting gastro-enteritis.
In 2006, SAS successfully campaigned for a revision of the European Bathing Water Directive. An EU agreement made in 2006 delivered a series of improvements which began in 2008 and will come into full force in 2015. Notably these include a tightening of the water quality standards to reduce the health risks at beaches achieving a good standard of water quality.
SAS were disappointed that the revised European Bathing Water Directive failed to define ‘recreational water users’ as ‘bathers’, missing the opportunity to protect these water users year-round and at undesignated spots. With scientific proof that certain groups of recreational water users are more at risk of falling sick than traditional bathers this Directive continues to ignore and discriminate against the recreational water user. In addition, the Directive only relates to designated bathing waters, which are popular bathing waters, often where recreational water activity is undertaken. But many recreational water sports take place outside of designated bathing waters and are therefore not covered by this Directive.
The Bathing Water Directive also only accounts for water quality sampling in the bathing season. Outside of that period no sampling is carried out nor no recognition that recreational watersports are carried out all year round, made possible by advancement in wetsuit technology. For some watersports, such as surfing, weather conditions are actually better outside of the bathing season making for more crowded line-ups.
We are also seeking to define areas of popular recreational water use that sit outside the designated bathing waters list, yet should be benefiting from clean and safe water. These include areas of water that might be used regularly by a club or association, or, are used as a training facility or competition venue.