China's water quality improvement uneven in first quarter of 2019
Despite an overall improvement in its water quality in the first quarter, China saw water quality deteriorate in some major lakes, rivers and reservoirs, according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
The ministry said the improvement was imbalanced across the country, and the plunge in water quality happened in some rivers in Shanxi, Liaoning, Hubei and Heilongjiang Provinces, which dropped from grade II during this period last year to "inferior to Grade V," the lowest level in China's water quality grading system.
China aims to basically eliminate water "inferior to Grade V" in the Yangtze River Delta and Bohai Bay area by 2020.
In the first quarter, six national monitoring sections in the Yangtze River Delta were out of the "inferior to Grade V" level, while six in Jingmen city, Hubei Province remained the lowest level, with one in Yichang City newly added into the level.
The delta faces prominent total phosphorus pollution, said the ministry. It lacks urban sewage treatment capacity, and supporting pipe network is incomplete, with some sewage discharged directly into rivers.
Conditions were severe as well in the Bohai Bay area, as four national monitoring sections remained the "inferior to Grade V" level, plus six newly-classified ones.
The Fuxian Lake in southwest China's Yunnan Province. /VCG Photo

The Fuxian Lake in southwest China's Yunnan Province. /VCG Photo

Fuxian Lake in southwest China's Yunnan Province is the country's largest deep freshwater lake, accounting for 9.16 percent of the storage of all domestic freshwater lakes. However, phosphorus and nitrogen run-offs have lowered its water quality, with the level of total phosphorus beyond the acceptable limit in the first three months.
The ministry also called for strengthening forecasts and early warnings of water condition, as well as water quality monitoring of drinking water sources, and timely taking measures to dispose cyanobacteria in major lakes and reservoirs to secure water quality.
Water quality grades
According to the Environmental Quality Standard for Surface Water, China has classified its water into five grades, from I to V, according to the function.
The first level has the highest requirement for water quality and is mainly applicable to source water and national nature reserves.
The higher the grade, the worse the water quality is.
The water at Grade V is for agriculture and general landscape usage, and water "inferior to Grade V" is what people call "unusable."
(Cover via VCG)