Sewage May Reduce SA Water Quality and Affect Bathers’ Health

The Blue Flag certification, which is awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education nonprofit NGO, indicates that compliance with standards for water quality, safety, environmental education and information. Blue Flag in South Africa, which is charged with ensuring that the country's Blue Flag beaches operate in line with Blue Flag international standards, reports that poor waste water management systems may have contributed to the deterioration in water quality over the last 10 years.

While there is little information on the effects of this on swimmers, a 2003 study found that swimmers experience higher symptom rates for gastrointestinal, skin and respiratory conditions than non-swimmers at a beach in Western Cape.

"Although the findings of the study were not significant then, the potential did exist. So if there is a decline in water quality now, that potential for health risks has grown", said Angela Mathee of the Medical Research Council.

South Africa's 27 Blue Flag beaches have regular water quality tests. However, there are still many popular beaches that have not joined the Blue Flag programme. Others have lost Blue Flag certification due to water quality issues. Among these are Gonubie Beach in East London and five of Durban's six Blue Flag beaches.