Over the past Decade, the World Health Organization has developed a series of microbiological guidelines covering different aspects of the aquatic environment. Transmission pathways of human pathogens from their faecal origin back to man via drinking-water, bathing waters, shellfish and sewage-irrigated crops were investigated and epidemiology-based health criteria established. The total and faecal coliform guideline values for drinking-water are generally complied with in urban water supplies but difficult to meet in rural areas of developing countries. The Mediterranean serves as the major study area for assessing health risks from bathing in coastal waters and from the consumption of shellfish eaten uncooked. Wastewater reuse for crop irrigation is rapidly expanding due to water shortages but poses health risks to farm workers and consumers. New guidelines for control of helminths were recently issued by a WHO Scientific Group. A comparative evaluation of the above guidelines follows.

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