There are many things that you need to weigh up when planning a holiday, including perhaps most importantly location. Many of us (most?) will want to spend at least a few days relaxing on a beach at some point, so the quality of the beach and it’s water are fundamental. Plus safety and cleanliness are considerations, especially for those with kids.
Blue Flag Award
That’s where the Blue Flag certification from the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) comes in which is an international, non-governmental, not-for-profit, organisation, promoting sustainable development through environmental education. The Blue Flag program was launched across in 5 European countries in 1987, the EU’s Year of the Environment, and has grown ever since. In 2014 a total of 48 countries have accredited beaches and marinas.
The Blue Flag eco-label is awarded to beaches, both sea and lake, and marinas, on a yearly basis that achieve the necessary high environmental and quality standards in a number of categories including: water quality, safety, environmental education and information, the provision of services and general environmental management criteria. Each certified beach must have the blue flag flying (as seen here) at least every 500m.
Beaches with Blue Flag Award and Campsites
There are over 3200 beaches with the award, most of which in Europe, as you can see from the table below. Spain has the most awards, with 561, and an average of over 8 per 100km. The other Mediterranean countries with major coastlines are next in terms of total awards followed by Denmark. In Italy, Liguria is the best represented region with 38 beaches along its coast, followed by Tuscany with 33. In France, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region has 91 awards, while Brittany has 37, and in Spain, Valencia has a huge 121 and Catalonia has 89 awards! All areas with great selections of campsites, so the choice is vast.
Blue Flag Beaches (2014)
Blue Flag Beaches (2011)
Coastline (km) 
Blue Flag Beaches per 100 km coastline
The beach must fully comply with the water quality sampling and frequencyrequirements.
The beach must fully comply with the standards and requirements for water quality analysis.
No industrial, waste-water or sewage-related discharges should affect the beach area.
The beach must comply with the Blue Flag requirements for the microbiological parameter Escherichia coli (faecal coli bacteria) and intestinal enterococci(streptococci)
The beach must comply with the Blue Flag requirements for the following physical parameters.
In the European Union, the water quality standards are incorporated in the EC Water Framework Directive. Water samples must be taken at least every 30 days and analysed by an independent body.
Safety and Services
- Appropriate public safety control measures must be implemented.
- First aid equipment must be available on the beach.
- Emergency plans to cope with pollution risks must be in place.
- There must be management of different users and uses of the beach so as to prevent conflicts and accidents.
- There must be safety measures in place to protect users of the beach.
- A supply of drinking water should be available at the beach
- At least one Blue Flag beach in each municipality must have access and facilities provided for the physically disabled.
The local authority/beach operator should establish a beach management committee.
The local authority/beach operator must comply with all regulations affecting the location and operation of the beach.
- Sensitive area management.
- The beach must be clean.
Algae vegetation or natural debris should be left on the beach.
Waste disposal bins/containers must be available at the beach in adequate numbers and they must be regularly maintained.
Facilities for the separation of recyclable waste materials should be available at the beach.
An adequate number of toilet or restroom facilities must be provided.
The toilet or restroom facilities must be kept clean.
The toilet or restroom facilities must have controlled sewage disposal.
On the beach there will be no unauthorised camping or driving and no dumping.
Access to the beach by dogs and other domestic animals must be strictly controlled.
All buildings and beach equipment must be properly maintained.
Marine and freshwater sensitive habitats (such as Coral reefs or sea grass beds) in the vicinity of the beach must be monitored.
A sustainable means of transportation should be promoted in the beach area.
Environmental Education and Information
Information about the Blue Flag programme and other FEE eco-label must be displayed.
Environmental education activities must be offered and promoted to beach users.
Information about bathing water quality must be displayed.
Information relating to local eco-systems and environmental phenomena must be displayed.
A map of the beach indicating different facilities must be displayed.
A code of conduct that reflects appropriate laws governing the use of the beach and surrounding areas must be displayed.
The Blue Flag awards are not only important for your holiday, guaranteeing you clean sand and water, safe access and facilities such as washrooms, but also for the environment. This sustainable approach to tourism is clearly important and to be congratulated, so why not choose a Blue Flag area for your holiday to show your support?
To find out more see the links below.