Environment Ministers meeting in Brussels have been urged to get tough

on water quality by clean water advocates Surfers Against Sewage (SAS). The

Ministers are meeting to discuss progress on the revision of the EU's Bathing

Water Directive. It follows a report from the European Commission that fails

to fully protect the water user of today.

SAS had hoped that since the Directive was originally designed to protect the

health of citizens using the water, the Commission would see health protection

of all recreational water users as the priority for the new Directive. However,

despite the body of evidence revealing that recreational water users make up

a significant percentage of people using Europe's beaches and inland waters,

the Commission have chosen once again to base the Directive around the protection

of the bather.

The surfers also have reservations concerning the new microbiological standards

set for bathing waters, questioning why there need to be two different quality

standards and whether the protection afforded by the new microbiological standards

is acceptable to the water user. The lower of the two new standards if implemented

would still present a one in twenty chance to bathers of contracting gastro-intestinal

illness from bathing on a government passed beach!

The SAS 'Wish List' requires a Directive that:

Meaningfully recognise 'recreational water users' - not just 'traditional bathers'

(i.e. swimmers).

Safeguard public health all year round - not just in the traditional bathing


Sets one combined water quality and sanitary inspection standard that best

reduces the risk of public contact with polluted water and which must be used

in conjunction with practical management action.

Provides real time public information, especially if a bathing water is failing.

Richard Hardy, SAS Campaigns Assistant says, "The current legislation

is 26 years out of date and needs a radical overhaul if we are to provide safe

and clean waters for everyone. Environment Minister Michael Meacher must create

waves to ensure water users of today are recognised and their health is safeguarded

from the nasty viruses and bacteria that plague our coastal and inland waterways".