English and Welsh rivers improving
Water quality in England and Wales is continuing to improve but still has a long way to go to meet European benchmarks.
This has mainly been managed through investment by water companies, tougher action on polluters, changing farming practices and countless local projects.
The figures, relased as part of the agency's annual General Quality Assessment, (GQA) show seven out of 10 English rivers and nine out of 10 Welsh rivers, achieved 'very good' or 'good' status in terms of chemical and biological water quality in 2008.
However, when set against higher European Union standards, which include wildlife habitats and impact of water abstraction, only 26% of rivers reached the required 'high' or 'good'.
The agency's chief executive, Dr Paul Leinster, said: "Our rivers are at their cleanest for over a century, which is why we are seeing the return of otters, eels and salmon to the Thames, Mersey and Tyne.
"But we need to go even further to meet the new EU measures for water quality.
"That is why we have announced plans to clean up 9,000 miles of river over the next five years.
"Our strategy will tackle the pollution and obstructions that prevent wildlife returning to some areas and we will working with farmers, water companies and groups such as the RSPB to get the best deal for our environment."
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