A water quality index for recreation in Brazilian freshwaters

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Use of water for leisure activities has long been prevalent in human societies, especially where the climate is favorable. Water resources with appealing conditions for primary contact recreational activities include rivers, waterfall plunge pools, dams and lakes, as well as sea coasts. Recreational use has specific demands for water quality, particularly as regards risks to human health such as exposure to pathogenic organisms, toxic substances, and submerged hazards. In Brazil, there is insufficient monitoring of bathing water conditions and currently used methodology has some limitations particularly the lack of guidance on interpretation of variables other than faecal bacterial indicators. The objectives of this study were: (1) to establish variables contributing to assessment of freshwater bathing conditions in Brazil; (2) to develop an integrated index of suitability-for-use for bathing in Brazil; and (3) to improve the methodology for assessing bathing water quality in Brazil. Based on a metadata analysis and consultation with Brazilian water professionals, a water quality index was developed incorporating the variables: Escherichia coli, cyanobacterial density, turbidity (visual clarity) and pH. This index should advance the management of recreational waters in Brazil, by improving the evaluation of freshwater bathing conditions and protecting the health of frequent users.

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