184.108.40.206 The method used to classify water quality is changing. For the last 20 years the general quality assessment (GQA) scheme has been used to assess river water quality in terms of chemistry, biology and nutrients. Now a more holistic approach is being taken to focus on where action is needed the most. The vehicle for this is the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), requiring a tougher and more rigorous assessment of the water environment. In addition to rivers the Directive also applies to estuaries, coastal waters, groundwater and lakes, not previously included in GQA results. More information is available from the Environment Agency.
220.127.116.11 There are 11 River Basin Districts (RBD) across England and Wales. The South West encompasses more than one of these: South West, Severn, Thames and to a lesser extent, South East. An RBD may include more than one river basin and any adjacent coastal waters. The majority of the region is within the South West RBD and results show that around two thirds of assessed surface waters fall short of the ‘good status’ target required by the WFD, reflecting the tougher standards introduced by the Directive. Improvements are driven by the poorest individual result, these provide the overall classification of a water body. The Water Framework Directive classification data, for the first round of river basin management planning was published in 2009 and forms the baseline results. Detailed classification data for the South West RBD is available at Environment Agency. It forms the first in a series of six year planning cycles. An interim update in 2010 for WFD under the overall river classification shows a marginal improvement in the South West RBD with 26% of river lengths as good, 55% as moderate, 18% poor and 1% bad.
18.104.22.168 The GQA network has been reduced in England both in numbers of sites and components. 2010 is the last year it will be used as a national headline indicator due to WFD.