The politics of water management: bathing waters in Italy

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1 The politics of water management: bathing waters in Italy Anna Trono University of the Salento, Italy 1. Introduction As stated in European Union Directive 2006/7/EC, concerning the management of water quality, water is a scarce natural resource and should be protected, managed and treated as such (EU, 2006). Above all, it is important that there is careful and frequent monitoring of waters. In Italy this seems to have been a successful approach, particularly for coastal bathing waters. 2. Italian coastal waters Although Italy is rich in water resources, overexploitation and pollution from both point and diffuse sources may negatively affect their quality, thus reducing their suitability for the most important uses. According to statistics provided by the Italian Ministry of the Environment, Italy has the second highest ratio in Europe of water abstracted to water resources available (Benvenuti and Gennari, 2008). Estimates give a ratio of 32 per cent, with only Belgium higher at 54 per cent. Despite the high use ratio, there are often considerable water shortages, due mainly to unequal distribution of rainfall but also due to irrational use of water and poor management practices. Italy s water resources are subject to strong pressure from an extensive manufacturing and industrial system, a highly developed farming sector and anthropogenic transformation of the environment. The latter is due to the high density of the resident population, but also to the large numbers of tourists who visit the country all year round and especially in the summer. As a consequence, the Mediterranean region is now under greater pressure from tourism than any other region of the world (Trono, 2006). Despite this, annual data for the monitoring of coastal bathing waters released by the Ministry of Health show that the quality of Italian coastal waters is excellent (Ministero del Lavoro, della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali, 2008). In 2007, Italy had the highest quality marine bathing waters in Europe. There are 4,920 bathing sites in Italy, out of a European total of 14,552 (which represents 34 per cent of all bathing sites in Europe), followed by Greece with about 2,000 sites, Spain with 1,900 and France with 1,800 sites. NEAR Curriculum in Natural Environmental Science, 2010, Terre et Environnement, Vol. 88, 43 49, ISBN

2 44 NEAR curriculum in natural environmental science Table 1 Results of monitoring the Italian coastline for suitability for bathing, 2006 and km % km % Total length of coastline 7, , Coastline that cannot be monitored 1, Insufficiently sampled coastline Coastline to which access is permanently prohibited for reasons other than pollution Coastline to which access is permanently prohibited for reasons of pollution Coastline which is temporarily not suitable for bathing for reasons of pollution Coastline suitable for bathing 4, , Source: Ministero del Lavoro, della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali, 2008 Italy monitors its entire coast and not just the bathing sites, as happens in most of the other countries, with a dense monitoring network (about 5,000 sampling points no more than 2 km apart) and the longest sampling period (six months a year). The network of sampling stations, which covers almost the whole of the Italian coastline, is able to supply data regularly on the quality of the coastal waters, guaranteeing truly rigorous and effective monitoring. The only sites excluded from the analyses are those in areas to which access is restricted for various reasons, such as military zones. The monitoring network is a source of pride for Italy, because it is currently the only country in the Mediterranean with a continuously updated assessment of its bathing waters. One of the consequences of monitoring the whole coast and not just bathing sites, is that Italy has declared 300 sites as not suitable for bathing (mainly river mouths). This represents a level of monitoring and public health protection that is not provided by other countries (Ministero del Lavoro, della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali, 2008). The results of the survey of bathing waters (Ministero del Lavoro, della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali, 2008) showed that of the 5,170 km of coastline subject to monitoring, 4,970 km, or 96.2 per cent, were suitable for bathing. Of the total 7,375 km of Italian coastline, 2,205 km were not suitable for bathing because they were not accessible for monitoring or because they were affected by ports and river mouths. A further 195 km of coastline were not suitable for bathing because they were polluted (Table 1). This was an important result when compared with the situation in the 1980s, when more than one third of the Italian coastline was not suitable for bathing because it was polluted. Thus, taking into consideration the Italian regions as a whole, the country s bathing waters were of generally good quality. Figure 1 shows that in half of the coastal provinces monitored, 100 per cent of the coast is suitable for bathing and in 40 provinces the proportion of the coastline suitable for bathing is above the national average of 96.2 per cent. Only in the four provinces of Caserta, Napoli, Roma and Gorizia is the proportion of the coastline suitable for bathing lower than 90 per cent. Figure 2 shows the Italian regions and provinces with the highest proportion of polluted of coastal waters.

3 Bathing waters in Italy 45 Figure 1 Analysis of the results of monitoring marine bathing waters in Italy by province, 2007 (Source: Ministero del Lavoro, della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali, 2008)

4 46 NEAR curriculum in natural environmental science Figure 2 Proportions of coastal water (provincial and regional) in Italy classified as polluted, 2007 (Source: Ministero del Lavoro, della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali, 2008)

5 Bathing waters in Italy 47 10,0 100,0 9,0 98,0 forbidden for pollution reasons, % 8,0 7,0 6,0 5,0 4,0 3,0 2,0 1,0 forbidden for pollutin reasons,% suitable for bathing, % 96,0 94,0 92,0 90,0 88,0 86,0 84,0 82,0 suitable for bathing, % 0, ,0 Figure 3 Changes in the proportions of sites suitable for bathing along the Italian coast, (Source: Ministero del Lavoro, della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali, 2008) PHYSICAL AND CHEMICAL PARAMETERS; 15,77% TOTAL COLIFORMS; 15,77% SALMONELLA; 1,46% STREPTOCOCCI; 27,59% FAECAL COLIFORMS; 39,42% Figure 4 Relative proportions of different pollutants in Italian bathing waters, 2007 (Source: Ministero del Lavoro, della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali, 2008) In the last 15 years coastal pollution has declined from 7.4 per cent in 1993 to 3.7 per cent in 2007 and the proportion of the coastline suitable for bathing has increased from 92.6 per cent in 1993 to 96.3 per cent in 2007 (Figure 3). The polluted sites are mainly affected by biological pollutants. Figure 4 shows that coliforms (total and faecal), streptococci and salmonellae account for 84 per cent of orders prohibiting bathing; the remainder were due to chemical or physical pollution.

6 48 NEAR curriculum in natural environmental science 3. Water legislation in Italy Italian bathing sites are the most intensely monitored in Europe because more than 20 years ago Italy adopted the strictest criteria in the European Directive regulating this sector. Today, 91.7 per cent of its bathing sites conform to the guideline values for microbiological parameters, compared to a European average of 86 per cent, and surpassed only by Greece on 95 per cent. In Italy, the quality of bathing waters is regulated by Presidential Decree 470 of June 8th 1982 which applies EU Directive 76/160/EC of December 8 th The decree stipulates that in the sampling period from 1 st April to 30 th September, analytical monitoring of coastal waters identified by the Regional authorities must be performed in order to verify their suitability (or otherwise) for bathing, both during the bathing season (from 1 st May to 30 th September) and for the period immediately preceding it. This monitoring is carried out by laboratories run by the Local Health Authorities (Aziende Sanitarie Locali) or Regional Environmental Protection Agencies (Agenzie Regionali per la Protezione dell Ambiente) where these are present. EU Directive 7/2006/EC concerning the management of bathing water quality, which was integrated into Italian law on 30/5/2008 (D.L. del Consiglio dei Ministri), changed the current monitoring network for bathing waters by specifying homogeneous areas and stretches of coastline that have two or more consecutive points with similar values in terms of environmental quality and risk factors. This led to a reduction in the number of stations and the cost of monitoring (Gruppo 183 -IEFE Bocconi-Legambiente, 2003). This Directive involves a highly innovative approach because it favours integrated management of water quality, enabling measures to prevent the exposure of bathers to polluted waters not only by monitoring, but also through management policies that recognise and reduce the possible causes of pollution. For classifying the quality of bathing waters, the Directive specifies only two indicators of faecal contamination with proven health implications, streptococci and Escherichia coli (the previous Directive listed 19 such parameters). Bathing waters are now classified on the basis of four quality classes (Excellent, Good, Sufficient and Poor), depending on the density of these indicators (95 th percentile derived from data from the last three/four years). 4. Conclusions In general terms, the legal framework for bathing water quality is still complex and fragmentary, as a result of continuous additions and modifications over the last 30 years. Clearly, Italy is now closer to achieving the objectives of EU Directive 2000/60/EC (the Water Framework Directive) which is designed to encourage a more holistic and regionally integrated approach to water-related issues, a greater degree of co-operation and negotiation with other decision-making bodies that are not directly affected by water management, and above all more interaction between government and local communities (Kallis and Butler, 2001; Borja, 2005; Hanley et al., 2006; Correljé et al., 2007). However, the new legislation might have even greater benefits for the formulation of regional strategies if it incorporates the well-established DPSIR framework

7 Bathing waters in Italy 49 (Drivers, Pressures, States, Impacts, Responses), which provides an overview of the state of the environment and the seriousness of the socio-economic pressures that act on it (Pirrone et al., 2005). The DPSIR framework has been cited as a potential analytical tool in the development of water management strategies with respect to European water policy (Ledoux et al., 2005). It enables the analyses of complex systems in order to identify the main factors that give rise to a problem and then to find possible solutions (Trombino et al., 2005). The use of the DPSIR model for problems related to bathing waters could improve the management of coastal areas. 5. References Benvenuti, M. and Gennari, E Il servizio idrico in Italia: stato di attuazione della legge Galli ed efficienza delle gestioni. Questioni di Economia e Finanza. Occasional papers No. 23, Banca d Italia e dell Eurosistema. Borja, A The European water framework directive: A challenge for nearshore, coastal and continental shelf research. Continental Shelf Research, 25, Correljé, A., Francois, D. and Verbeke, T Integrating water management and principles of policy: towards an EU framework? Journal of Cleaner Production, 15, Directive 2006/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 February 2006 Official Journal of the European Union Gruppo 183 -IEFE Bocconi-Legambiente 2003 Per l attuazione della Direttiva Europea Quadro sulle Acque (2000/60). Report 17 Ottobre Hanley, N., Robert E., Wright, R.E. and Alvarez-Farizo, B Estimating the economic value of improvements in river ecology using choice experiments: an application to the water framework directive. Journal of Environmental Management, 78, Kallis, G. and Butler, D The EU water framework directive: measures and implications Water Policy, 3, Ledoux, L., Beaumont, N., Cave, R. and Turner, R. K Scenarios for integrated River Catchment and coastal zone management. Reg Environ Change, 5, Ministero del Lavoro, della Salute e delle Politiche Sociali 2008 Rapporto acque di balneazione, Pirrone, N., Trombino, G., Cinnirella, S., Algieri, A., Bendoricchio, G. and Palmeri, L The Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) approach for integrated catchment coastal zone management: preliminary application to the Po catchment Adriatic coastal zone system. Reg Environ Change, 5, Trombino, G., Cinnirella, S., Algieri, A. and Pirrone, N Scenario analysis for the evaluation of River Basin Management Plan for the Po Catchment under the Water Framework Directive. In: Geophysical Research Abstracts, 7, Proceedings of the European Geosciences Union 2nd General Assembly, April, Vienna, Austria. Trono, A. (Ed) 2006 Lo sviluppo dell identità mediterranea attraverso l economia del mare, Mario Congedo Editore, Lecce.

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