U.S. recreational water quality criteria (RWQC) are needed to protect the public health of people who swim and bathe in designated beaches. However, advances in microbiology, environmental science and engineering, and epidemiology, as well as progress in monitoring programs in the last decades, have called into question the scientific credibility of the RWQC. Hence in 2000, the U.S. Congress (the Clean Water Act as amended by the BEACH Act) mandated USEPA to conduct studies concerning pathogen indicators in recreational waters and to review the criteria. USEPA responded with several epidemiological studies, as well as organized a series of scientific and stakeholder workshops to learn about relevant issues to be considered in the development of new or revised criteria.
Science-based assessment of RWQC and discussion on how new science can be used to take advantage of the flexibilities alluded to in the new RWQC are needed. Furthermore, as the BEACH Act requires RWQC reviewed at least once every five years, it is timely to identify current research needs and available opportunities.