The decline in high ecological water status in rivers is a significant concern in European countries. It is thus important to investigate the factors that cause sites to lose high status in order to undertake measures to protect and restore high status water quality. Analysis of 20 years of water quality data reveals strong mobility between high status and non-high status (especially good status) rivers. Associations between this mobility and socio-economic and physical environmental variables were estimated by multinomial logistic regression at national scale and regional scale. Based on reported changes in water quality status cross across 1990, 2000 and 2010, four classes of the mobility of high status were defined in this study: those sites that maintain high status (maintain), enter high status (enter), fluctuate between high and non-high status (fluctuate) and exit from high status (exit). The national results indicate that agricultural activity as indicated by variables representing intensity of livestock farming (organic nitrogen) and tillage farming (cereal share) and elevation had significant negative impacts on high status rivers. Meanwhile, significant differences in population density and septic tank density between ‘exit’, ‘maintain’, ‘fluctuate’ and ‘enter’ classes indicate that these factors played important roles in the stability of high status rivers. The regional outcomes reveal differential significant pressures across regions. For example, rainfall and elevation had positive impacts on high status rivers in the north-west region, while organic nitrogen had a negative effect in the south-west. This paper demonstrates the challenge in achieving the Water Framework Directive goal of maintaining high status rivers, given the sensitive and highly differentiated nature of areas that have lost high status or fluctuated in and out of high status. This paper also suggests the necessity for localised policies and mitigation measures.
- Agricultural activity
- High ecological water status
- Multinomial logistic regression
- Water framework directive