BEIJING, March 20 (Xinhua) -- China's water quality improved in 2016, but still fell far short of people's expectations, an environment official said Monday.
Last year, 67.8 percent of monitored surface water areas were ranked from Grade I to Grade III, indicating relatively good quality, Zhang Bo, head of water environment division under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said at a monthly press conference.
The share was slightly higher than 66 percent for 2015, and exceeded a target of 66.5 percent for 2016, according to Zhang.
Only 8.6 percent of monitored areas received the lowest rating of Grade V for very poor quality, lower than 9.7 percent for 2015.
"Although water quality improved around the country, but it still fell far short of expectations," Zhang said.
The ministry analyzes water quality monthly and sends warning letters to areas where quality worsens.
If water quality in an area deteriorates in a quarter, the ministry will take various kinds of action, including public notifications and direct action against affected officials, Zhang said.
Since April 2015, the country has implemented an Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control to reduce pollutants, improve drinking water quality and promote water conservation.
More than 70 percent of the water in the seven major river valleys, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, should have relatively good quality of between Grade I and Grade III by 2020, according to the plan.