Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Water, NHMRC, 2008

The primary aim of these guidelines is to protect the health of humans from threats
posed by the recreational use of coastal, estuarine and fresh waters. Threats may include
natural hazards such as surf, rip currents and aquatic organisms, and those with an
artificial aspect, such as discharges of wastewater.
These guidelines should be used to ensure that recreational water environments are
managed as safely as possible so that as many people as possible can benefit from
using the water.
These guidelines are not mandatory; rather, they have been developed as a tool for
state and territory governments to develop legislation and standards appropriate for
local conditions and circumstances. The aim of the guidelines is to encourage the
adoption of a nationally harmonised approach for the management of the quality of
coastal, estuarine and fresh waters used for recreation.
The guidelines do not directly address environmental aspects of the recreational use
of water, but the environmental impacts of such use should be considered, because a
healthy environment has many benefits for human health.
This document is divided into two parts:
• Part 1: The guidelines — Chapters 1 and 2, which provide a general
overview of the management of recreational water, including a table of the key
recommendations included in the guidelines; and
• Part 2: Supporting information — Chapters 3–10, which provide detailed
information on potential hazards associated with recreational waters.
Figure A gives an overview of the structure of the guidelines and the key elements of
the supporting chapters. Table A summarises the guidelines, including guideline values
and specific comments.
The guidelines represent a major revision of the previous National Health and Medical
Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines — Australian Guidelines for Recreational Water
Use (NHMRC 1990). In particular, these new guidelines include a preventive approach
to the management of recreational water that focuses on developing an understanding
of all potential influences on a recreational water body, through local assessment and
management of hazards and of factors that may lead to hazards.
This approach provides information on the local influences on recreational water quality,
as well as numerical information on the likely level of contaminants. The results can be
used to:
• classify beaches, to support informed personal choice;
• provide on‑site guidance to users on the relative safety of the water;
• assist in identifying and promoting effective management interventions; and
• provide a basis for regulatory requirements, and an assessment of compliance with
such requirements.
Potential adverse impacts on the health of recreational water users must be weighed
against the enormous benefits to health and wellbeing (eg rest, relaxation and exercise)
and to local economies that rely on water-associated recreational activities.