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Blue Flag Beaches

Blue Flag Beaches

What does a Blue Flag beach mean in Greece?

With 430 blue flag winning beaches, Greece in 2022 maintained its second position in the world among 50 countries. First emerged the prefecture of Halkidiki in Greece this year, with 52 flags.

Definition of a Blue Flag Beach

The award of a Blue Flag is based on compliance with a number of criteria; some imperative and some guideline, covering the following:

  • Environmental Education and Information
  • Water Quality
  • Environmental Management
  • Safety and Services

Environmental and Education Information

A brief summary of the Blue Flag Programme should be included on the main information board and should include details of the responsible managing authority locally, nationally and internationally. Alternatively, Beach Operators can include their own wording along the following lines: To attain the Blue Flag, Beach Operators have to fulfill a number of criteria covering environmental information and education, environmental management, safety and services, water quality. Brief details of the environmental education activities need to be displayed on the main information board. As part of the Blue Flag Programme, Council runs a number of environmental education activities throughout the season.

Information on bathing water quality must be displayed. This should be in a format which is easily understood by the public and should be kept up-to-date as soon as data is made available from the monitoring authority. Information relating to local eco-systems and environmental phenomena must be displayed.

The following items should be indicated on the beach map where applicable:

  • ”You are here” pointers
  • Lifeguards or lifesaving equipment
  • The area patrolled (beaches with lifeguards)
  • First aid equipment
  • Telephones
  • Toilets (including toilets for disabled)
  • Drinking water
  • Car and bicycle parking
  • Authorised camping sites at/near the beach
  • Recycling facilities
  • Larger waste receptacles
  • Water sampling points
  • Access points (including disabled access points)
  • Zoning (swimming, sailing, surfing etc) where applicable
  • Nearby public transport
  • Footpaths
  • Demarcation of Blue Flag area
  • Rivers and inflows
  • Local landmarks (where applicable)
  • Storm water outlets
  • Nearby natural sensitive areas
  • Scale bar
  • Direction (North)
  • A code of conduct for the beach area must be displayed and the laws governing beach use must be easily available to the public upon request.

The Blue Flag is awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), a non-governmental environmental organisation and is represented by such national organisations in each of the participating countries.

It is an imperative criterion that all Blue Flag beaches have a Common Information Board (all relevant information in one place) in a prominent position at the beach main access point. This Common Information Board should include all beach, safety, and Blue Flag information, together with water quality sampling results, code of conduct and details of environmental education activities.

FEE is keen to see the standardization of beach information boards, so that beach visitors can immediately locate the important information they need to make their visit both safe and enjoyable. This will ensure a uniformed approach to signage on beaches throughout Greece and the RNLI guidance adheres to nationally approved standards, whilst allowing Beach Operators the flexibility to display their own branding and the opportunity to use local manufacturers to ensure the best value.

Water Quality

Guideline water must meet the guideline standard for total coliform, fecal coliform, and fecal streptococci parameters. There should be at least 20 samples taken at regular intervals throughout the bathing season. To meet Blue Flag criteria, there must be no more than 17 days between water quality samples. The first sample must be taken within 5-17 days before the beginning of the bathing season. The last sample must be taken within 17 days before the last day of the Blue Flag season. Compliance of the community with requirements for sewage treatment and effluent quality.

Environmental Management

The beach must be clean. Algae vegetation or other natural debris should be left to decay on the beach unless it constitutes a nuisance. Waste disposal bins/containers must be available on/by the beach in adequate numbers and they must be regularly maintained. There must be recycling facilities for at least 3 types of recyclable materials (these could include glass, paper, clothing, cans, etc) on or near the beach. Separate facilities should be provided for each type and they should ideally not be more than 200 meters away from the beach (the beach car park is fine) and should be clearly signed on the information board and on the ground.

Please note that recycling bins for brown, clear and green glass do not constitute recycling for 3 types of materials, only one type of material – glass.

Alternatively, a single facility may be installed for receiving different types of materials; provided the accepted materials are clearly marked on the receptacle and that the materials are sorted and recycled following collection.

An adequate number of toilet and restroom facilities must be provided. The number of toilet facilities available at the beach should be adequate to meet the needs of beach users even at peak times. Toilet or restroom facilities must be kept clean. The facilities must be clean at all times. The frequency of checking and cleaning the facilities must reflect the intensity of their use. Beaches with a fair number of daily visitors must have their facilities checked and cleaned every day or several times a day.

Toilet or restroom facilities must have controlled sewage disposal

Dogs must be banned from the Blue Flag award area of the beach and other domestic animals must be strictly controlled. This ban should be an enforced bye-law or Dog Control Order and should be in place throughout the bathing season (May to September). The dog ban could be either a 24/7 ban or a timed ban. If a timed ban is in place this must be clearly communicated to the general public through clear signage. The award area of the beach must be properly cleansed of all dog feces at the start of each day before the timed bog ban comes into place. The dog ban area should be marked on the beach map and on the ground with clear signage in place.

Safety and services

An adequate number of lifeguards and/or lifesaving equipment must be available at the beach. Provision of lifeguarding should be determined by the results of your risk assessment. However, the presence of lifeguards at a Blue Flag beach is recommended in order to increase the safety level at the beach, especially at beaches with a high number of beachgoers. If lifeguards are present, there must be an adequate number (minimum two) placed at appropriate intervals according to the beach characteristics and use. The number of lifeguards can vary over the Blue Flag season according to peak and low use of the beach. Lifeguards should be easily recognizable and must have appropriate lifesaving equipment.

Blue flag beaches Rhodes
Blue flag beaches Pelion
Blue flag beaches Santorini
Blue flag beaches Thessalia
Blue flag beaches Peloponnese
Blue flag beaches Halkidiki
Blue flag beaches Ionian islands
Blue flag beaches Crete

Lifesaving equipment

Lifesaving equipment can replace lifeguards at beaches with low hazard risks and with few users. Provision of public rescue equipment should be determined by the results of your risk assessment. The lifesaving equipment should include access to an emergency telephone. The equipment should be regularly inspected and clearly positioned, visible and located at regular intervals permitting it to be identified and reached quickly from any point on the beach.

On beaches without lifeguards, maximum intervals of 100 meters between the equipment are recommended. Lifesaving equipment must be accompanied by instructions for use and what to do in the case of a rescue. For more information on public rescue equipment, the RNLI has produced a guide in consultation with other key water-related bodies, aimed at helping Coastal Managers determine and plan their PRE requirements.

Beach operators

In order to be eligible for a Blue Flag, Beach Operators must undertake and submit an up-to-date risk assessment. This must consider all activities that are undertaken on the beach or in the water adjacent to the proposed award beach. If you have aquatic users you should ensure that your risk assessment includes an aquatic risk management plan. An individual risk assessment must be submitted for each beach for which you are applying for an award. Risk assessments will be evaluated on an individual basis by an external panel.

First aid

First aid should either be available by way of a lifeguard on-site; a manned first aid station with trained personnel; equipment located in a shop or other beach facilities at the beach; or, directly available to the public on the beach. First-aid facilities can either be attended or unattended. It is strongly recommended that busy beaches and family beaches have attended first-aid stations. First-aid stations or the location of first-aid equipment must be clearly sign-posted and marked on the beach map for easy location by beach visitors. Times of availability of first-aid equipment should be displayed.

Clear operational procedures must be in place for dealing with any overlapping of user groups, ensuring that no conflicts or accidents occur. A risk assessment should be carried out highlighting and addressing any overlapping needs from the different user groups. The assessment should identify who the different user groups are, what risks there could be and how these risks are managed. There must be safety measures in place to protect users of the beach  A beach must be accessible in order to be eligible for the Blue Flag.

Access paths

In addition, the access provided must be safe. Therefore, beaches that are physically challenging to access must have provisions that facilitate safe access, such as secured steps with handrails. Similarly, roads in the vicinity of the beach, which must be crossed to access the beach, must have designated crosswalks. Beach promenades and steps onto the beach must be complete and in good condition in order to be safe. Reserved places for disabled persons must be clearly marked and give easy access to resort facilities. Where it is absolutely necessary to park on the beach it must be safe, controlled, clearly marked and defined.

Other access paths must also be safe, with regulations for other traffic types such as cars and bicycles. Bicycle paths should be encouraged whenever relevant. Similarly, car and bicycle parking should be provided as needed and where appropriate. Where promenade edges are higher than 2 meters above the beach, warning signs/line and/or a barrier should be set up to prevent accidental falls.

Drinking water

If a source of potable drinking water is available on the awarded beach it should be protected from animals and/or birds. If you feel that the water cannot be protected then it must be removed or advertised as non-drinking water. It is acceptable for the Beach Operator to have an arrangement with local businesses to supply a glass of drinking water free-of-charge or alternatively, this could be available from the lifeguard or Beach Supervisor hut. The drinking water should be clearly signed and easy to find.

Ensuring Access for People with Disabilities

At least one Blue Flag beach in each authority must have access and facilities provided for the physically disabled. For authorities that are looking to redevelop their toilet facilities consideration should be given to the introduction of changing places facilities.