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The legislation concerning bathing waters is based on the Directive on Bathing Waters (Directive 2006/7/EC), transposed by the Italian Legislative Decree ( D.lgs.116/2008) and by the implementation decree of the Italian Ministry of Health of March 30th, 2010 (D.M. 30 marzo 2010).

2010 was the first bathing season that was monitored according to the new Directive.

The directive encourages an integrated management of water quality, in order to enhance actions to prevent bathers´ exposure to pollution and risk for health. Monitoring and adoption of management measures aim at detecting and reducing possible causes of pollution. Management measures can be optimized by means of an accurate knowledge of coastal profiles.

The main aspects introduced by legislation are the following:

  • determination of 2 bacteriological parameters only, Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci, that are more specific to indicate fecal contamination (tab 2);
  • frequency of sampling at least monthly during the bathing season, according to a schedule established before the start of the season, for a minimum of 4 samples per year for each sampling point;
  • quality assessment based on a new statistical calculation: assessment of the 95th percentile or 90th percentile of microbiological data;
  • annual classification of bathing water quality on the basis of the data of the preceding 4 bathing seasons;
  • area integrated analysis based on the knowledge of front coastal profile and definition of the correlation of the state of the bathing water quality with the possible sources of contamination;
  • adoption of necessary management measures on the detected impact sources, in order to improve water quality;
  • detailed and timely information to the public;
  • optimization of the monitoring network through the definition of homogeneous areas.

For the purposes of the classification of bathing water quality, in particular, Directive 2006/7/EC sets only 2 fecal contamination indicators, which have a proven health relevance, intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli. Furthermore, bathing waters are classified in 4 quality classes (excellent, good, sufficient and poor) determined on the basis of the data of the preceding 4 years. As regards cyanobacteria, macro-algae, marine phytoplankton, tarry residues and materials such as glass, plastic, rubber or any other waste, when such pollution is found presenting a risk to health, adequate management measures shall be taken in order to prevent exposure, including information to the public. Those parameters will not be considered for the purposes of classification (tab 1).

Tab 1: Quality requirements of bathing waters

Law limits for the new parameters (tab 2)

Tab 2: Limit values for each sample


Identification of bathing waters

In Emilia-Romagna, for the 2020 bathing season, 97 bathing waters were identified, as it contained in the resolution of the regional council n. 623 of 08/06/2020.



The sampling point is set inside each bathing water, where most bathers are expected or the greatest risk of pollution is expected. 

In the same regional resolution the identification of coastal areas permanently prohibited for bathing is provided, better specified in the "Permanently prohibited bathing areas" section under the “Topics” menu in this web site.


Microbiological parameters

For the purposes of the classification of bathing water quality, the Directive sets only 2 fecal contamination indicators, which have a proven health relevance, intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli (in the previous Directive the parameters were 12). Water microbiological quality standards set the limits in the concentration of bacteria that must be respected to safeguard human health. These organisms generally do not directly cause diseases, but they are good indicators of the presence of pathogens (viruses, protozoa, bacteria) in water. Therefore, considering the high number of different species of potentially present pathogens and the complexity of their identification and counting, which is often difficult, monitoring is usually limited to indicator microorganisms.

US Environment Protection Agency (1986) proved that Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci are the better indicator organisms to find the presence of pathogens causing gastrointestinal diseases.

Escherichia coli, belonging to coliform bacteria, is a taxonomic species of the family of Enterobacteriaceae, rod-shaped microorganisms, Gram-negative, facultative anaerobic and non-sporulating. This species is commonly found in the lower intestine of humans and animals and is sensitive to many chemical and physical disinfectants.

Intestinal enterococci is a functional term used to identify a subgroup of streptococci that are found in the intestines of humans and animals. Intestinal enterococci can colonize other sites, such as the initial tract of gastrointestinal system or the genital tract. Some species were also found on the soil, in food, in water and in plants. Their ability to survive and grow in a wide range of environmental conditions explains their almost ubiquitous distribution.


MONITORING ACTIVITY Ostreopsis ovata and Cyanobacteria
As regards the monitoring activity of Ostreospsis ovata and Cyanobacteria, please refer to the relevant sections present on this website.


Classification of bathing water quality

As for the classification of bathing water, please refer to the section "Classification of bathing waters" under "Topics" menu in this web site, or click here.


Reference limits for each sample

The decree of the Italian Ministry of Health of March 30th, 2010 (D.M. 30 marzo 2010) sets out criteria to determine bathing prohibition and limit values relative to a single sample for the purposes of bathing (Annex A). Exceeding one limit determines the immediate prohibition for the whole bathing water where the sample was collected (tab 1).

Tab 2: Limit values for each sample

The Decree of 19 April 2018 of the Ministry of Health establishes further limits for Ostreosis ovata and Cyanobacteria, defined in the respective Istisan Reports 14/19 and 14/20.


Length of the bathing season, frequency of sampling and methodics

Emilia-Romagna Region, according to the competences set by Italian D.Lgs. 116/2008, defines, for each bathing season, the length of the summer bathing season. As defined by the Ordinance n. 1/2019 it has been set between the Saturday before the celebration of Easter and the last Sunday of October, for heliotherapy, sporting, cultural, recreational and entertainment activities.

In the context of preventing the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the Emilia-Romagna Region has adopted the extraordinary bathing ordinance n.1 / 2020, approved with DPG / 2020/8885 of 05/21/2020, which integrates and replaces the Bathing ordinance n. 1/2019 only as otherwise provided and is in force until 31/12/2020. With this ordinance it is established that for the year 2020 the summer bathing season "is between 23 May and 25 October 2020. During the" summer "bathing season, the control of the water to guarantee the health of the bathers will be carried out in the period monitoring, which for 2020 runs from 13 June to 13 September 2020, as it contained also in the resolution of the regional council n. 623 of 08/06/2020 point 5.


A monitoring calendar for each bathing water is established before the start of each monitoring period.

Sampling dates shall be distributed throughout the monitoring period, with the interval between sampling dates never exceeding one month.

Monitoring shall take place no later than four days after the date specified in the monitoring calendar.

Shortly before the start of each bathing season, an additional sample should be taken, to define and confirm the compliance of bathing water to hygienic and health requirements.

Samples are to be taken 30 centimeters below the water´s surface and in water that is from 80 to 120 cm deep. Samples are to be taken between 9.00 and 16.00 o´clock.

The following weather and marine parameters shall be collected and reported in the monitoring report:

  • air temperature
  • water temperature
  • wind: direction and speed
  • state of the sea, direction of waves, visual estimation of wave height
  • surface current: intensity and direction
  • weather conditions: rain, cloud cover.


Short-term pollution and abnormal situation

"Short-term pollution" is defined as the microbiological contamination that has clearly identifiable causes and is not normally expected to affect bathing water quality for more than approximately 72 hours after the bathing water quality is first affected and for which the competent authority has established procedures to predict and deal with.

An "abnormal situation" is defined as an event or combination of events impacting on bathing water quality at the location concerned and not expected to occur on average more than once every four years.


Preventive management measures

Preventive management measures are taken by some municipalities following particularly intense weather events, that can cause an occasional pollutant contribution to bathing waters. These measures provide a temporary bathing prohibition or a limitation of bathing in order to protect the health of bathers.

In the bathing season 2020, the municipalities that yet have adopted such preventive management measures are:

- Cesenatico (view ordinance)

- Rimini (view ordinance)

- Riccione (view ordinance)

- Cattolica (view ordinance)


Bathing water profile

The bathing water profiles, according to Article 6 of Legislative Decree 116/2008, are described in the "Bathing water profiles" section, under "Topics" menu in this web site.


Information to the public

Municipalities shall ensure that the following information is actively disseminated and promptly made available during the bathing season in an easily accessible place in the near vicinity of each bathing water:
(a) the current bathing water classification and any bathing prohibition or advice against bathing by means of a clear and simple sign or symbol according to European Union indications;
(b) a general description of the bathing water, in non-technical language, based on the bathing water profile;
(c) in the case of bathing waters subject to short-term pollution:

     - notification that the bathing water is subject to short-term pollution,
     - an indication of the number of days on which bathing was prohibited or advised against during the preceding bathing season because of such pollution,   
     - a warning whenever such pollution is predicted or present, with a temporary bathing prohibition;

(d) information on the nature and expected duration of abnormal situations during such events;
(e) whenever bathing is prohibited or advised against, a notice advising the public and giving reasons;
(f) whenever a permanent bathing prohibition or permanent advice against bathing is introduced, the fact that the area concerned is no longer a bathing water and the reasons for its declassification;
(g) an indication of sources of more complete information.