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MARECLEAN - Risk based reduction of microbial pollution discharge to coastal waters

LIFE06 ENV/F/000136

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Clément NALIN
Tel: +33 2 33 91 30 01
Fax: +33 2 33 91 30 26

Project description:


Thirteen percent of Europe’s coastal bathing waters do not meet the standards set by 76/160/EEC Bathing Water Directive. In France, 20% of bathing waters are expected to be non-compliant unless action is taken. Pollution mostly comes from point sources and domestic wastewater.

Tourism and demographic pressures in coastal areas are making it more difficult to reduce pollution, while at the same time increasing expectations of clean waters. Conventional solutions for the management of faecal pollution in domestic effluents work well in dry weather conditions, but fail to manage efficiently the flow rates generated by heavy rainfall. In rural areas, the size of sewage systems present additional difficulties.

The project site includes 38 registered bathing locations and 15 production areas for mussels and oysters, including the largest site in France. On some days, more than 10 000 people harvest shellfish recreationally on the tideland.


The MARECLEAN project covered the management and treatment of wastewater discharged to the sea and aims to prevent infectious diseases. The microbial seawater quality plays a key role in the sustainable development of costal areas. For the 40 km of coast covered, the project should immediately result in a 20% reduction of point source pollution rising to 70% with the application of a long-term management plan. Specific objectives included:

  • Reducing the number of bathing sites rated “sufficient” according to the Bathing Water Directive from five to two and the number rated “insufficient” from three to none;
  • Upgrading the rating of the most polluted mussels/oysters production area from “D” to “C”, and improving an area rated "B" to an "A" rating. At the end of the project there will be five zones rated “A”, six zones rated “B” and one rated “C”.
  • The project aimed to further integrate pollution management into development plans. This would yield long-term economic benefits and avoid conflicts surrounding responsibility for pollution.

    At an EU level, the MARECLEAN method would be available for conducting risk assessments of faecal pollution in coastal areas (particularly those that border the Atlantic and North Sea), creating a local consensus on solutions and optimising environmental and economical benefits. The project would also add to knowledge of faecal pollution.


    The MARECLEAN project assessed the pollution load in rivers and the sea, taking more than 1 500 samples to measure continuous flow in nine rivers and sea water quality and velocity. From these measurements, the importance of short-term rainfall forecasts to pollution load became apparent.

    Point and diffuse sources of pollution were identified, with the most significant being identified as inland pasturing, followed by sewer overflow and salt marsh grazing. Data gathered were used to model pollution risks as a function of weather and sea conditions. The MARECLEAN team developed both a watershed load model (MAREFLUX) and a sea dispersion model (MARS).

    The project developed four transferrable decision-support tools:

    • A tool for management of pumping stations overflow (this included a map of the potential impact of overflows at different pumping stations and the critical duration of overflows at different points, so that repairs can be prioritised).
    • A tool for management of beach closures (the SAERS decision support system includes 32 scenarios for wet weather and 72 scenarios for infrastructure failures in dry weather).
    • A tool for prioritising investment in pumping stations (based on technical status and critical overflow duration).
    • A tool for prioritising the protection of river banks (based on the state of the riverbank and the critical load).

    In addition, MARECLEAN created a transferable pollution reduction tool for real-time sewer management to prevent beach pollution. The tool is based on the principles of making full use of storage capacities and engaging in preferential discharge to less sensitive areas. The method used to achieve this is to command pumping according to storage status and the immediate rainfall forecast.

    The project has also demonstrated to administrators the benefit of risk management for reducing water protection costs and has shown the importance of agricultural sources of pollution.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Water - Waste water treatment
Habitats - Marine
Water - Water quality improvement


water quality improvement‚  waste water treatment‚  coastal area‚  bathing water

Target EU Legislation

  • Water
  • Directive 76/160 - Quality of bathing water (08.12.1975)
  • Directive 91/271 - Urban waste water treatment (21.05.1991)
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Syndicat mixte des Bassins Versants des Côtiers Granvillais (SMBCG)
Type of organisation Public enterprise
Description SMBCG (Syndicat Mixte des Bassins Côtiers Granvillais) is a public entity created by the local communities in the urban area of the project tackling pollution of beaches and shellfish farms. It serves 300 km2 and 30000 inhabitants, and is supported by the municipal team of Granville that complements its staff when needed.
Partners Syndicat Mixte du Pays de Coutances (SMPC), France SAUR, France Veolia Eau - Compagnie Générale des Eaux (CGE), France IRH Génie de l'Environnement, France Agence de l'Eau Seine-Normandie (AESN), France Météo France Institut Français de Recherche pour l'exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER), France Insituut voor Toegepaste Milieu-Economie (TME), Netherlands Syndicat Mixte pour l'Equipement du Littoral (SMEL), France Veolia Environnement SA , France VERI, France


Project reference LIFE06 ENV/F/000136
Duration 01-OCT-2006 to 31-DEC -2009
Total budget 1,569,358.00 €
EU contribution 783,429.00 €
Project location Basse-Normandie(France)


Read more:

Project web site Project web site
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report Rapport final (10.5 MB)


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version