Monitoring the microbiological quality of water used for recreational activities is very important to human public health. Although the sanitary quality of recreational marine waters could be evaluated by standard methods, they are time-consuming and need confirmation. For these reasons, faster and more sensitive methods, such as the defined substrate-based technology, have been developed. In the present work, we have compared the standard method of membrane filtration using Tergitol-TTC agar for total coliforms and Escherichia coli, and Slanetz and Bartley agar for enterococci, and the IDEXX defined substrate technology for these faecal pollution indicators to determine the microbiological quality of natural recreational waters. ISO 17994:2004 standard was used to compare these methods. The IDEXX for total coliforms and E. coli, Colilert®, showed higher values than those obtained by the standard method. Enterolert® test, for the enumeration of enterococci, showed lower values when compared with the standard method. It may be concluded that more studies to evaluate the precision and accuracy of the rapid tests are required in order to apply them for routine monitoring of marine and freshwater recreational bathing areas. The main advantages of these methods are that they are more specific, feasible and simpler than the standard methodology.

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