Wednesday May 27th 2020 Water Blog

Water is a public health issue


The Irish Environmental Protection Agency published its Bathing Water in Ireland report for 2019. A beach in Dublin at Merrion Strand has been closed to swimmers because it has persistent water quality issues over the past 5 years. The beach has been designated a permanent prohibition. This is a shame. The reasons given for this water quality issue is the influence of two polluted streams which flow on to the beach; the Elm Park and Trimleston streams. These streams are polluted because of misconnections where domestic plumbing goes into the wrong pipe and goes directly into the stream; leaks, spills and overflows from wastewater collection systems and run-off from roads.[1]

The EPA have produced a nice map of the bathing waters and the designated quality. [2]The report also shows some good news though that bathing water quality has improved across the country in 2019 – an extra 4 locations were classified as excellent and overall 95% of bathing waters met the minimum standard. That is good news for all the eager swimmers – social distancing in the waters on these particular days.


Historically, doctors recommended that their patients go to the seaside to help with a variety of ills. Doctors would even write a prescription stating how long patients should be in the water and how many times this should be repeated. The practice of using seawater as a medical therapy has a name – it’s called thalassotherapy.  Richard Russell, an 18th Century British physician encouraged thalassotherapy. Sometimes he recommended  drinking seawater as well. Now many of us – before COVID – would visit spas or seaweed baths for healing and some reports suggest that this is good for arthritis.

The greater mineral content of marine waters is thought to provide therapy also for psoriasis sufferers. Reports of easing itching of the skin following a saltwater dip draws psoriasis and eczema sufferers to this activity. We know many swimmers take a plunge all year round –not just on the occasional hot day.  These cold water swimming activities are reported to stimulate the release of hormones, which in turn can have very significant long term beneficial effects.

So, even if doctors no longer prescribe a visit to the sea, it is really important that we maintain the quality of our seas and oceans for all people to be able to benefit from exercise, physical and mental therapy, or whatever benefit people may find. Dr Russell was also instrumental in transforming Brighton & Hove from fishing village to holiday destination – recognising the significant health benefits of the sea.


I am not suggesting you should drink seawater – but certainly see the many benefits of this really valuable resource. No need for bathing machines[3] – just leap in.






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