Rivers in England and Wales Cleanest for 200 Years

LONDON, UK, September 25, 2000 (ENS) - British rivers are cleaner today than at any time since the industrial revolution began in the eighteenth century, the Anglo-Welsh Environment Agency reports.

Results of the latest annual river water quality survey, plus findings reported earlier for Scotland and Northern Ireland, show that 92 percent of UK rivers can now support fish.

The strongest areas of improvement since 1990 have been in urban areas in northern England and the English midlands where around half of rivers and canals have improved by one grade or more.

The net improvement, taking into account the fact that some rivers have deteriorated over the same period, is equivalent to upgrading 40 percent of total river and canal length in the Midlands and North.

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Bourton on the water, The Cotswolds, England (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy Freefoto.com)
The positive trend is put down to government ordered investment by water companies in better sewage treatment plus stricter regulation and enforcement.

Announcing the new water quality results on Thursday, Environment Minister Michael Meacher said, "The billions being invested in cleaning up our rivers are really bearing fruit. These are the best ever water quality results and reflect the Government's firm commitment to delivering a cleaner, better quality environment for everyone to enjoy.

In Wales, nearly 99 per cent of rivers were classified as good' or 'fair in 1999. Assembly Environment Secretary Sue Essex said, "Our rivers are an asset that we must protect and improve for future generations. As well as enhancing the Welsh landscape, they are the source of drinking water supplies and support a rich variety of wildlife."

The survey assesses only the chemical quality of river water. Results of a more detailed five year biological survey will be released next year.

Scotland's environment minister Sarah Boyack Friday announced an increase of UKú190m (euros 310m) in environmental spending for the period 2002-2004. The funding increase is set to add one quarter to total expenditure (excluding water) by 2004 compared with 2000-2001.

The largest slice of the extra money will be spent on improving water and wastewater treatment. Extra funds will also go to the Scottish environmental protection agency to help improve compliance with European Union environmental directives.