Improvement in south-west rivers

Rivers in south-west England are improving in quality for the first time in over ten years, according to the National Rivers Authority (NRA). The trend will influence the national picture because the region's rivers made a large contribution to the overall deterioration in quality during the 1980s.

Some 57.7% of rivers in the south west achieved "good" class 1a or "less good" class 1b status during 1992. This compares with 52.5% in 1991 and only 51% in 1990. Compliance with river quality objectives also improved and now stands at the highest level since 1986 (see figure ).

The results are particularly significant because the region showed the largest declines in the two most recent five-yearly surveys of river quality in England and Wales. Between 1985 and 1990, 22% of river lengths in the region were downgraded, compared to a national average of 4%, and between 1980 and 1985 44% of lengths declined in quality, compared with a 2% national average.

The NRA ascribes the improvement in quality to pollution prevention initiatives, and acknowledges "farmers, industries and individuals" who have taken steps to improve and protect water quality. However, sewage discharges have not contributed to the improvement and many are still unsatisfactory.

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